The sun is shining, the temperature is rising, and school is out. Schedules at home are changing and you have a wonderful family getaway planned along with plenty of relaxation time for yourself. But what about your young child who had become used to the daily routine of going to school and learning? It is the perfect time to get outside to release some energy and to explore, yet you cannot forget about their learning. You know for yourself if you do not continue to practice something, you may eventually forget how to do it. This must also apply to your child, right? Absolutely! If they don’t use it, they may lose it. So how can you utilize this time with your young child to continue to reinforce the skills and concepts learned during the school year so that he/she is ready to hit the ground running come the first day of school, instead of spending time reviewing?
Here are some fun and practical tips to help you to weave reading and writing activities into your child’s daily events to help prevent summer reading loss:
Write with sidewalk chalk. Use sidewalk chalk to write letters or words scattered about on the pavement. Have your child hop, skip, crab walk, run, etc… over to the correct one as you call them out. Take turns and have your child be the scribe or call them out for you to find! They will be building their letter formation, letter-sound correspondence, and spelling skills as they write. Play games like hangman with the sidewalk chalk to help reinforce spelling of sight words, the words most frequently found in text.
Make your own sidewalk chalk paint. As the sidewalk chalk becomes worn down, don’t throw those small pieces of away! Instead, place the pieces of chalk into a plastic bag and crush them to create a powder. Pour the powder into a small cup. Add a little water to the powder and stir. Have your child use a paintbrush to paint letters or words.
Paint with water. Give your child a cup of water and a paint brush and allow him or her to paint letters or words with the water directly onto the pavement, dark siding, or the foundation of your home!
Read while climbing the stairs. Do you have any stairs around your home, inside or outside? Place letter cards, words, or word phrases on each step. Encourage your child to read each card as they climb the stairs. (If you do not have stairs, you could always just create a path with the cards for your child to follow and read.)
Practice reading in the car. Use a small piece of tape to attach letters, words, or word phrases on the back of the car seat in front of your child. Your child will be looking right at them each time they are in the car, and especially all throughout a long car trip. Encourage your child to read a card and to name the letters in the word to spell it.
Read to your child. Find a comfortable spot for you and your child and simply read to him or her. This can be in the shade of a tree, on a lounge chair, laying in the grass, etc… This may sound too simple but research has shown the importance of reading aloud to children. When you read to your child, you are providing a model of how reading should sound by using appropriate phrasing, expression, and fluency. It allows your child to develop a sense of story and promotes language and vocabulary development along with listening comprehension. Make sure you take time to discuss the illustrations and to answer questions.
Ask open-ended questions. To stimulate thinking, ask open-ended questions about what has been read. Ask questions such as the following: What happened in the beginning, middle, or end of the story? What was your favorite part? Why did you like that part the best? How does the character feel? Why does the character feel this way? Why did the character do that? What did the character learn? Does this story remind you of anything?
Write lists. Have your child help you create lists. Lists to go shopping, important items to pack for your trip, favorite activities to do on sunny and/or rainy days, favorite toys, favorite books, etc… Creating lists will help improve your child’s ability to brainstorm, apply their letters and sounds to their writing, and their spelling skills.
Write letters. It almost seems as though writing a letter with a pen and a piece of paper is a lost art with technology these days, but everyone loves getting mail! Spend some time improving letter-sound correspondences and spelling skills as your child writes letters to family members, friends, or even their teachers!
Write a book. Create a keepsake of a summer outing by writing a book about the event! Your child can be an author, no matter how young they are. Stack a few pieces of paper together and then fold them in half. Talk with your child about what will be written, what the sequence of events should be, who the characters are, etc… Depending on their age, you can have your child illustrate, illustrate and label, illustrate and write some of the letters and words, or write all of the words and illustrations in the book.
Read a book and then watch the same movie. There are several children’s books that have been the inspiration of many movies (i.e., Charlotte’s Web, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Mary Poppins, etc..). First read the book with your child and then watch the movie together. Tap into those higher level thinking skills as you discuss the similarities and differences found between the two as you compare and contrast the book and the movie.
Create a secret treasure box. Provide your child with a solid colored box (one you cannot see the contents of). Take turns placing a familiar object inside without the other knowing and then write down (or verbally state) three clues describing the object for the other guess what is inside. This will help build their language ability and use of descriptive words when they are describing the object. It will also help build additional higher level thinking skills as they think about the clues you are providing them and infer what is inside the box. For example, if the object is a teddy bear the three clues may be, it is brown, it has two eyes, it is fluffy.
Go to the library. Beat the heat and head inside to your local library! Many libraries hold free events for children of all ages to help build and maintain literacy skills. Or simply go to check out books and/or movies. In addition to your child’s teacher, a librarian is a great source to point you in the right direction to find books at the appropriate level to help stimulate your child’s development throughout the summer!
As you incorporate these daily reading and writing activities into your routine, remember to keep the activities fun and engaging for your child. Instilling the motivation to read, especially in young children, is the ultimate goal to encourage a lifelong love of reading!
Julie McKown is a National Board Certified Teacher for Early and Middle Childhood Literacy. She holds a masters degree in Reading and Special Education and New York State certification in both areas. She is currently an elementary reading teacher working with children in kindergarten through fourth grade, entering her 9th year of teaching. For more about summer reading loss you may visit her website.