If you have a school-aged child, summer might mean summer camps, outdoor activities or simply some extra one-to-one time with your child. It can also be a great time to learn to read with more joy and ease.
Maybe your child’s school librarian offered you a summer reading list so that your child doesn’t experience the “summer slide”. This is a term that some of us teachers use to describe the drop in reading levels, which typically occurs over the summer break – unless of course, you choose to do something about it.
Dropping in reading level is a lot like losing some ability to speak a language or to maintain muscle mass and flexibility. Use it or lose it! For younger primary school students, this is important to attend to as their brains are still developing. The early primary school years are critical for developing literacy skills.
We all want the best for our children, but life at school is only one piece of a child’s learning development path. The beginning phase of a child’s journey to becoming an avid reader is founded on the feelings that they have about reading books. But how do they get those feelings? And how can parents help in the social-emotional part of learning to read?
Like anything else, children develop their feelings about things through experiences. The more positive experiences a child has with reading, the more chance that an inner optimism about reading will motivate them to continue and enjoy independent reading when they’re older. This is where you can play a powerful role in helping your young child to see themselves as a “reader” – and enjoy every moment of it!
5 Steps to an Easy Summer Reading Routine
These days, family lives seem to be getting busier rather than easier for many people. The desire to support your primary school-aged child’s reading development is paired with a parenthood reality that can often be a buffet of non-stop chaos. Sometimes we just want to have a peaceful, enjoyable and predictable routine when we have extra time with our kids.
Here’s my 5-step routine to support your child’s reading development this summer with more joy, more fun and more creativity. The routine doesn’t require any special teaching skills and it just takes 10-20 minutes, once or twice a week, depending on your child’s age and level of interest in the chosen book. These are the steps:
1. Solo Reading Time
Have your child enjoy a solo experience of an appropriate book that they’ve chosen. Depending on your child’s ability level, they may read the book independently or do a “picture walk” through it. A “picture walk” is simply flipping through the pages and looking at the order of the pictures to find meaning. This needs to be a real book, not a digital book.
2. Solo Journal Time
Ask your child to draw anything they found interesting in the book. Once your child has finished their picture, they can write down one “big question”. A “big question” is one that is important and interesting to your child. Note: If your child can’t write yet, you can write their question for them in their journal. Just be sure to try and write it in your child’s words.
3. Reading Chat Time
Ask your child to show you their picture and allow space for them to tell you about it without questioning them too much. If your child needs a prompt simply say, “Tell me about your picture.” Then have your child read you the question that they wrote (or the one you wrote down for them). Remind your child that there is no silly question when it comes to learning. It’s also okay if neither you nor your child can answer their “big question”. Just discuss this and write down or draw your best answer (or guess!) to your child’s question in the journal.
4. Appreciation Time
Set aside the journal for a moment, get comfortable with your child by sitting side-by-side or with your child on your lap. Enjoy reading aloud the book to your child. When you’re finished reading the book, take turns telling one another one thing that you appreciated about the “Reading Chat Journal Time”. It could be about the content of the book, your child’s picture and question or simply about the positive feelings you have from sharing the book together.
5. Journal Note Time
End this routine by writing taking a turn to write a short note about what you shared as an appreciation in your child’s journal. It could be a key word about a topic in the book, an example of a word you or character you liked or simply just a word to sum up a positive feeling you had while reading together. Recording this quality parent-child shared reading time in one place makes the reading experience social as well as independent.
That’s it! Now, you can get started with this by buying a new journal for your child or you can click here to download a PDF of my mini “Summer Reading Chat Journal”. Print it out (single-sided) and glue the back sides of only the first two pages together, then fold it into a cover. Fold the rest of the journal pages on the line so that the words are visible. Tuck these pages into the folded book cover that you’ve prepared and staple the book “spine”of the book together.
It can be fun to invite your 5-7 year to old help you assemble the book. Let them personalize the journal with their name and perhaps some extra pictures on the white inside front and back covers.
A Positive Parenting Approach to Summer Reading
Reading is the skill area that children must develop in the early school years in order to effectively access information across the curriculum. It’s also a lifelong pursuit that can bring much joy and richness into our family lives. This easy, summer reading routine is an opportunity for you to support your child’s literacy development in a relaxed, enjoyable and low-pressure way.
What’s books do you and your child plan to read together this summer? Please share the titles in the comments below!