Those hot summer days are upon us in beautiful Northern Michigan. COVID-19 has challenged what summer will look like to a certain degree, especially when it comes to educational and enrichment activities for children and teens. How do you help encourage reading in older kids or developing literacy skills in younger kids, all while resources have shifted and narrowed? Here's a simple list to get ideas flowing in order to prevent summer slide and to keep your little readers engaged and excited about reading.
Make it fun
While daily required reading is a great plan for summer, it can quickly turn into another thing we have to nag our kids to do. Instead, create a fun whole-family activity. Cut out rectangles of paper and have kids brainstorm funny verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs. Plug these words into a Mad Libs type story (either of your own creation or google an age-appropriate Mad Libs online) for maximum hilarity. Have younger kids act out their favorite stories or a book you just read. This playacting reinforces reading for comprehension and series of events, plus it gets them moving and active.
Incorporate reading into daily activities
Have your kids help you cook or bake by reading off the ingredients and instructions. Have older kids help with navigation when on the road, such as reading road signs or maps. A fun car game that passes time is “I'm going to the store”. This game can be modified to fit whatever activity you are driving to do, such as going to the beach, woods, or even imaginary destinations like space. The game starts when someone says, “I'm going to the ---- and I'm bringing an” followed by something starting with the letter A. The next person repeats the refrain, including the A item, and adding their own for B. Go in order, with each family member getting the next letter of the alphabet until you've gone from A-Z, and by then you may have reached your destination!
Make it hands on
Kids love to be the center of their stories, so make them their own leading character. Younger kids can illustrate a simple story you write for them, including their favorites, like color, food, activity. Older kids can rewrite their favorite stories with themselves leading the charge, maybe even rewriting how they would have saved the day. Or turn their current obsession into a book. If they are fascinated by bugs, start a log of bugs they have seen, including space for them to draw the bug. Older kids could research about the bug, it's preferred habitat, what they eat. They could write down exciting adventures they had, such as exploring a new woods or learning to bike. Creating a journal of these activities counts as reading/writing and provides a lasting documentation of a summer well spent.
Turn reading into a contest
The sky is the limit when it comes to reading contests. Select a word of the day and see who can use it the most correctly in a sentence. There are so many ways to reinforce reading with rewards. You could brainstorm fun treats on scraps of paper and toss them into a box. Every time they finish a book they get to pull out a slip and have that reward (reward ideas: get an ice cream cone, pick the movie for family movie night, extra 10 minutes of screen time, etc). Or they could sign up for a summer reading program. Scholastic is doing an Online Reading Challenge that is free. Many local libraries are also running summer reading programs, such as Traverse City, Bellaire and Benzonia libraries. Check with your closest branch to see if they are offering a reading program this summer. While some may not be offering a reading program, almost all have connections to hoopla or other sites where children can read or listen to books. Many of the local libraries also have virtual storytime, with scheduled or recorded book reading for toddlers and preschoolers.
Make it a family affair
The bottom line is, the more children see you reading, the more they will read. Children under 3 love to be included, read to, and most importantly, just talked to. The more you talk with your baby, the more they develop foundational literacy and word knowledge. You can sign up for Bright by Text, a free text platform that sends developmental information from 2nd trimester to age 8, as well as tips and tricks from their partners to help incorporate learning into everyday (text NWMI to 274448 to sign up for BBT in our 5 county region). Setting up a time to read to your preschooler every day will make reading a habit they look forward to. Keep them curious about the books, asking them to point out items in the pictures, asking what emotion certain characters are showing, etc. Pull together all the pillows and blankets in the house and make a pillow/blanket fort, with space for each family member to read. Flashlights can make it seem even more like an adventure. When kids see you having fun with reading, they realize that reading can indeed be fun!