Effective summer reading strategies can help your child stay on track with the reading progress he or she has made throughout the school year.
Granted, as school gets out, one of the last things kids might be thinking about is summer reading.
With everything else summer has to offer – staying up later, swimming, playgrounds – summer reading may be an activity that has trouble competing with the rest.
My twenty years of experience as a reading tutor and, maybe more importantly, my years of experience as a mother has taught me most tasks can be not only accomplished but enjoyed by children, as long as the right motivation is present.
Eventually, as children grow in confidence and fluency, reading won’t even seem like a chore for them – it will become a daily habit that they take part in for their own enjoyment. Until that time is reached, though, these summer reading strategies will not only encourage your child to read and strengthen her reading abilities, but they can also offer another way for you and your child to share valuable time together.
Summer reading strategy #1: Getting Colder.
Go to a craft store together and buy some craft (popsicle) sticks and colored construction paper. To get you started, cut twelve rectangles (sized and shaped like popsicles, if possible) out of the brightly colored papers.
You’ll also need to buy a box of ice cream bars (popsicles, fudgesicles, creamsicles, etc.) saved especially for this activity. (No sneaking treats out of the box by mom or dad, even after kids’ bedtimes!).
Decide together how many books your child will have to read during summer reading time to earn a frozen treat, with the idea being that your child could earn two or three of these treats per week. Write that number on a small piece of paper and stick it onto a cup.
Throughout this summer reading plan, whenever your child finishes a book, write the name of the book on a craft stick. Have your child draw a picture on one of the colored paper popsicles, glue it onto the stick, and put it into the cup.
Whenever the number of loose paper popsicles in the cup equals the number printed on the cup, put an elastic band around that group and reward him with the cool treat!
Kids choosing longer books for summer reading, or those who are very slow readers, might be better off receiving a frozen treat for every book they read (or possibly even every chapter) so they don’t become frustrated or lose interest because it’s too long between rewards.
Summer reading strategy #2: Reading Lighthouse.
Take an empty half-gallon milk or juice container (the kind that looks like a tall house made of cardboard, not the clear plastic type), cut the very bottom off of it, and wash it out thoroughly.
Cover the outside with white paper and draw a 3” x 1” door on one side and a small window somewhere above that. Go outside together to gather small, flat rocks in a bucket that you can label “Reading Rocks.” Save these rocks for next year’s summer reading time too.
Every time someone in the family finishes reading a summer reading book, glue (rubber cement works great!) one of the flat rocks onto the outside of the milk box, gradually building your summer reading stone lighthouse.
Even in its unfinished state, display the lighthouse where all can see it to challenge or encourage them to read more to finish the project. You can place a flashlight inside the lighthouse to let light come out of the spout when it’s completed.
Summer reading strategy #3: Bucket of Books.
If possible, go to a nearby beach, pond, or lake together and collect a bag full of flat shells (or go to a craft store and buy some clam shells). Every time your child reads a book, have her paint something from that book (it can be simple – a face, a bug, a basketball, a boat, etc.) on the inside of the shell and put the shell into a beach pail or a basket that she’s going to fill over the summer.
Occasionally, you may want to go through the pail of shells and pick out one to see if either of you remembers what that summer reading book was about.
Summer reading strategy #4: Sweet Summer Reading Pointers. It usually helps young readers to point to the words as they read, helping them keep their place on the page or line, as well as focusing their attention on the words and letters.
During summer reading time, instead of pointing to the words with a pointer finger, try having them point to the words with something more fun!
Buy a bag of small lollipops that will be available only for this activity (to keep the child doing summer reading motivated). Whenever your child begins a new book, he is given one of the lollipops so he can use the end of it to point to each word as he reads it.
Only when he’s done reading that book does he get to unwrap and eat the lollipop. If it takes him several days to finish the book, he can use the stick of the lollipop as a bookmark. If your child is reading several books a day, change the rules so that he gets to eat the lollipop after reading three or four books. (Otherwise, your child will certainly be a great reader, but he won’t have any teeth left!)
Try to select very small lollipops (like Dum Dums) or purchase sugar-free lollipops to limit the amount of sugar your child is eating. Instead of lollipops, you could also use Bugle Corn Chips as pointers, which are cone-shaped corn chips that fit perfectly on little fingers!
Summer reading strategy #5: Dynamic Reading Duo.
A great way to encourage summer reading (or anytime reading) with those who are struggling, frustrated, or slow readers is to share the task with them. To make this activity more entertaining, tell your child that the two of you are going to read some books just like the famous stars do – right into microphones!
Explain that you’ll be a reading duet, meaning that the two of you will be taking turns reading the pages, and possibly even reading some sections together.
Although it’s not necessary, there are added benefits to using a real microphone, one that can be plugged into the speaker system of your computer or a similar device. The magnification of your child’s reading voice will not only make it feel more like a star performance, but it will also help her hear and focus better on what she is reading and saying. This will make summer reading really fun!
If you do not have access to a real microphone, this activity can still be a great motivator. In this case, you can make a microphone out of construction paper, wedge a tennis ball into a paper cup, or use just an ordinary pencil, ruler, or hairbrush for your pretend microphone. (That’s what I always used as a chubby teenager who loved to belt out songs in front of the bedroom mirror! How’s that for a visual?)
Whether it’s real or pretend, your microphone will be passed back and forth between the two of you as you each take turns reading a page to your (pretend) audience. This is one fun way to promote and enjoy oral reading during summer reading time.
After reviewing these summer reading strategies and determining which ones are right for you and your child, go grab your own book and enjoy a few minutes of reading yourself. After all, one of the best summer reading strategies is setting an example of reading for the love of it!
Nancy and Penny are the authors of Lively Letters and Sight Words You Can See, programs that develop phonemic awareness, phonics, and sight word skills. They are nationally recognized speakers and can be contacted for inspiring keynote addresses or presentations on their own programs at 781-331-7412 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit www.readingwithTLC.com for more information on Nancy and Penny, the reading programs they’ve created, and other strategies to encourage summer reading.
Related articles: Summer Reading Loss Prevention Tips
Take the Eye-Q Reading Inventory to find out whether your child can do more summer reading.