Summer has begun, and alas, I am finally inspired to start a blog, which I have wanted to do for so long. I am new to the blogging world and am not up-to-date with technology in general, so it may take some time for me to figure out how to do this well. The combination of my professional background (as an educational/developmental psychologist and literacy researcher), my passion for anything pertaining to kids’ learning and literature, as well as raising three kids who love to read — has led me to want to share some of what I know about building eager, thoughtful readers, including some of what we do in our family.
I plan for much of this blog to focus on specific book recommendations that are coupled with suggestions for building the comprehension skills and deep thinking that are essential for reading success. Whereas the busyness of everyday life and the perceived obstacle of needing to learn how to do a blog delayed my starting this the last several months, the onset of summer and the huge importance of summer reading has given me the momentum to get this going quickly while summer is still young. So, I will start this blog with a series of posts that aim to promote summer reading among kids and families.
Let’s avoid the “summer slide”!
For children, the word “slide” evokes images of slides at the park, the water park attraction, and the backyard “Slip ʻn Slide”. Now that the school year is over and we have “slid” into the more relaxing days of summer, here is a plug for the importance of reading to avoid a much more pernicious kind of slide — the “summer slide”. The “summer slide” (also known as “summer learning loss”) is the largest cause of the gap between good and poor readers. Just as athletes lose some of their skills if they donʼt practice for several months, children who do not read in the summer lose 2-3 months of reading development. In contrast, kids who do read tend to gain about a month of reading proficiency. This difference creates a three to four month gap every year, which results in a cumulative gap of several years or more.
The most significant way that you can help your child academically over the summer is to encourage consistent (and ideally, daily) summer reading. Studies have shown that regular reading over the summer produces as much or more reading growth than attending summer school! Now, while it is still the beginning of summer, try to disconnect “reading” from “school work” — especially if they are strongly linked in your family. Emphasize the many bigger-than-school reasons to read, such as for pleasure, to relax, to learn, and to connect to worlds beyond your own. The reading habits (or lack thereof) that your child develops over the summer have a significant impact on reading achievement as well as the creation of “lifetime” versus “schooltime” readers and learners.
There are many ways that you can help your child to create a summer reading life. With this post, I will start off with two suggestions that can make a big difference.
Summer Reading Tip #1 – Decide on summer reading goals. As close to the start of summer as possible, develop a reading plan with your child. Kids are much more likely to read if they have a say in what their reading life looks like, so discuss possible goals together and let them pick. Some ideas for summer reading goals include:
- read every day of the summer
- read a book a day (may be anything “book-ish” including chapter books, picture books, comic books, a book of poems, magazines, audio books)
- read for 1200 total minutes (this equates to ~ 20 minutes/day)
- read every book that can be found by a particular author
- read in as many different places as possible (great for families moving around a lot)
- attempt to get through a large pile of must-read books (“summer reading stack”) in the bedroom corner
- make a list of “top topics” to investigate and then read as many nonfiction and fiction books on each topic that you can.
Summer Reading Tip #2 – Document summer reading. Help your child determine a way to document summer reading. You can go the traditional route with logs of books read or time spent, or you can get creative. Some ideas of other ways to document summer reading include:
- reading doors or wall murals that show off evidence from books read (e.g., favorite quotes, drawings of favorite characters or favorite parts of the story)
- a “reading tree” with leaves added for each book read
- a list or photographs of all of the places where reading occurred
- a photograph of your pile of completed books from the summer reading stack
- a collage of photographs of covers of books read
Remember, a huge way to encourage reading is to lead by example. Read in front of your kids and talk about your reading experiences. Show that reading is a great part of your summer too. And, even join in on whatever reading goals your child has set. It can be extra fun if the entire family can co-construct a summer reading plan together, pursuing the same reading goals and documentation method!
In our family… We decided to make a “summer reading tree”. Each kid picked a color for his/her leaf, and they cut out a bunch of leaves. After each book they read, they are writing the title of the book on their colored leaf, as well as the date. Preschooler (and not yet formally reading) Caleb is participating as well — he makes a leaf after he “pretend reads” by reading aloud the pictures. My husband and I also picked a leaf color, and the kids are excited about the family effort (I have to admit, adding leaves is more fun than keeping a reading log!). This just worked great for us for travel: We put blank leaves in a pencil box, and everyone filled out leaves as books were completed. We just returned home, and the kids are having fun adding their finished leaves to the tree. Here is our tree at the start of summer…
Does your child or family have a unique summer reading goal or creative documentation method? Please share if you do!