Summer Reading Tips

In addition to vacations, camp and general relaxation, summertime also means summer reading for many children. For some students this can mean stress and procrastination. How can you help your child complete and comprehend summer reading assignments without all the frustration?

  1. Try to pick a book based on interest level, not length or difficulty. Usually summer reading lists have a variety of books on a variety of topics meant to offer something for everyone. Instead of going for the easiest or shortest book, spend some time finding a book that taps into your child’s interest. Use past experiences (hobbies, trips, life situations) to narrow down the list of books so that your child can find a character or topic he or she can relate to. If a child is not able to connect to the story, it won’t matter how short or easy the book is.
  2. Preview the book with your child. Previewing is one of the most important and effective strategies you can do with your child. Think about movie previews—they tell you the plot, setting, main characters, mood and main conflicts before you ever see the movie, yet they actually increase your interest in the film. You can do the same thing with books. Analyze the front cover, read the summary on the back, look at chapter headings and pictures. Talk about the main characters and the plot. Supplement this information by going on-line and researching the setting or topic. By previewing a book, your child will have prior background knowledge upon which he or she can build. It is like creating a file in the brain to which new knowledge can be added. Without this “file” your brain has a harder time processing the information.
  3. Set a schedule for reading. Creating a schedule and sticking to it can keep your child on pace and avoid conflict. Work with your child to determine the best times to read. Look at a calendar and take into consideration all camps, playtime, family vacations and events. Once you’ve looked at all these factors, set your schedule and post it so that there is no confusion or room for argument. Reading a little every day, setting a manageable pace and creating a reward system can help avoid procrastination and conflict.
  4. Interact with the text. Most summer reading requirements require some sort of test or report when school begins. In order to retain information read during the break, students need to interact with the text as much as possible. Have your child keep character lists, write brief chapter summaries (use post-it notes in your book), verbally discuss and retell the chapters, and draw pictures/maps/graphs/timelines of important events or characters in the book. Create a folder for each book with all of the notes, pictures, preview material (see #2), supplemental info from the internet, etc. After reading the book, you can also watch the movie if available and discuss how the book and movie are the same and different. By doing this, your child will be able to review effectively prior to taking the test. Another great idea—Book Clubs (see below).
  5. Keep a positive attitude. Reading develops vocabulary, critical thinking skills, writing skills, etc. Practicing comprehension during the summer months will help your child across all aspects of the curriculum in the fall.

What if your child is in preschool? Here are some preschool summer reading tips:

One of the foundations for reading is familiarity with print and books. Your child should understand that people read words, not pictures and should know how books work—front to back, right side up, one page at a time. The more you read with your child, the more familiar he will become with the printed word.
To build early phonics skills—another foundation of reading—do these simple activities with your young children:
  • The alphabet song—try mixing it up by changing the tune, starting with a different letter, etc.
  • Play “I Spy” with objects that begin with different letters. “I spy something that begins with a ‘p’.”
  • Play with letters—blocks, magnets, even tracing letters in the sandbox
  • Talk about signs that children see while riding in the car (i.e. McDonald’s, Stop, Kroger’s, etc.)
  • Buy a disposable camera when you go on a trip and have your child take pictures. Put those pictures in an album and have your child label them.
  • Make labels for objects around the house. Put the written words by the objects.

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