Summer is almost upon us and that means flip-flops, popsicles, playdates, longer days, and some vitamin D! However, while summer is the time for some respite from the daily grind of the school year, it is important to keep reading as part of your child’s daily routine to avoid what we teachers call the “summer reading slide.”
Follow these tips from a teacher to make your summer reading routine authentic, meaningful, effective, and fun!
Make a Plan
Everything runs better with a plan in place. As adults, we like structure. So, it is no surprise that children like it too. You can structure your plan any way that works for your family as long as everyone understands the expectations and subsequent goals. Here are some suggestions when building out a plan:
Have your child co-create the plan WITH you so that they feel a sense of ownership and that their voice is being heard.
Better yet? If they can write, have them pen the plan themselves! Things you might want to consider when creating the plan: What time of day will they read? How long might they read? (20-30 minutes a day is recommended.) Where will they read? Let them make a cozy reading spot anywhere in the house (even if it’s in the kitchen under the table!).
Let your child choose their books.
It’s important that your child has high-interest books to sustain their engagement and build up their stamina. It also gives them a sense of ownership and control over their reading lives. For elementary students, have them create a big pile of books. For middle school, if they are not avid readers yet, have them try out a series to hook them (their volume will shoot up once they find their series).
Change up the plan every so often.
Routines can get stagnant, so when you feel as though you have both hit a plateau, it is time to make a change. Assess how the first reading plan went and tweak from there. Did the morning time slot not work because being outside seemed more important at the time? Move reading time to late afternoon when they need to wind down OR move the morning reading time to outside!
Before “Reading Time”
For the most effective results, it is important that children get primed for their reading time. It is hard to concentrate when you feel jittery and/or hungry. To stave off any frustrations and excuses, here are some suggestions for before reading time:
- Play outside or engage in some other active play. For a rainy day, Cosmic Kids Yoga is a great option for movement.
- Eat a light snack right before, or let them snack while they read.
- Let them have a water bottle next to them while they read.
- Use the restroom right before and remind them that they will get to use the bathroom right after if need be. This will also build up “bathroom stamina” for the classroom.
During “Reading Time”
There is a misconception that reading time is your child reading alone for a certain amount of minutes. In no way should we expect a five- or six-year-old to sit in one spot for 20 minutes reading on their own. For young children, you can break up the time by you reading to them, followed by your child reading to you AND independent reading time where you both read your own books quietly, but together.
This also works with older children. Believe it or not, middle schoolers LOVE to be read to. So do it! Read a part of their book to them before they set off to read on their own.
Discuss the book!
But be careful with this–don’t just fire off questions. When done right, this will just be a casual conversation. Start by asking about what is going on in the story and progress from there. Let them know you need them to help you understand. Finally, offer a space for them to ask you any questions, but if they don’t have any, that’s okay too!
Don’t “sound it out” (at least not every time).
Instead, look at parts of the word:
- Smaller words inside bigger words (i.e. “oat” inside “boat”)
- When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking (i.e “oa” for “boat”)
- Blends/digraphs (i.e. br, cr, fl/sh, th, ph)
- That pesky magic e (i.e. make)
- The even peskier bossy r (i.e. are)
Lastly, if they stumble, let them stumble!
Tell them to “try it out first” before coming to their rescue. Play around with the word. Then if nothing, give them the word before frustration sets in. If they stumble but solve it, celebrate by naming the win AND rereading the sentence to build up fluency and comprehension.
After “Reading Time”
Celebrate, BUT not too much! As teachers, we are trying to build lifelong readers. When they become avid readers we won’t celebrate every day because it’s ingrained in our daily routine. A simple high five, naming something they did well or that was an improvement from the day before, a walk outside, or running an errand and stopping by the local library and spending some time looking for books to check out are all great ideas. Something simple!
Did I mention it should be simple? What you don’t want is for your child to expect some grandiose reward for reading because then they will expect that after every reading time, and as we all know, that is not real life (especially when they get back into the classroom in the fall).
With all of that said, if you have a struggling reader or a child that finds reading a chore (ouch, it hurts to say that!) and you get through your reading time unscathed (or scathed), by all means celebrate the heck out of that win! You will want them to come back tomorrow, thirsting for more reading goodness.
Lastly, give yourself some grace! Don’t expect your reading plan to be perfect on the first day of deployment. It may need to be tweaked and molded into what really works for you and your child. Don’t give up; persistence and flexibility are key to a successful reading plan. And if you do give up, it’s okay! Instead, go outside, drink some water, get a good night’s sleep, and try again tomorrow.