How to support reading skills during summer

You can help avoid summer reading loss by providing stacks of fun reading in new and interesting ways this summer.

Make reading part of your child's everyday routine with new and interesting ideas. Photo by Nicole Walker.
Make reading part of your child's everyday routine with new and interesting ideas. Photo by Nicole Walker.

When school is over for the year and summer vacation begins, many children forget all about the three R’s—reading, writing and ‘rithmetic—in favor of fun. While we all want the chance for a change of pace, some of the skills children developed in reading during the school year can be lost over the three months of school vacation.

Education experts call this “summer reading loss” and it can be significant for some children who may already be struggling with reading. We also know this loss of skills can be offset when families provide reading materials and support children’s reading throughout the summer, according to Snow, Burns and Griffin in a 1998 study.

If you want to support reading during the summer months, one easy option is to enroll your child in a summer reading program at your local public library. The library staff puts together lists of books that are popular with children and a method of keeping track of how much reading children do. They may also offer events like a children’s concert and prizes for reading achievements.

Some other resources families can explore is the Summer Reading Booklist program through Reading Rockets. The Scholastic Books website also offers booklists through the Raise a Reader program.

Another option is to create your own reading list for your child. To grab your child’s attention, find out what topics they are interested in and look for books or magazines related to those topics. A good way to begin is to start with an interesting question, such as “Where is the worlds’ highest sand dune?”

You can also explore the hundreds of topics at the Wonderopolis website where you can pose your own question, such as “How does soap make you clean?” Or, let your child explore the hundreds of topics already on the website.

For children who cannot read for themselves, parents can make sure they do shared reading every day. Some families use reading as a calm-down activity. Involve your child by asking open-ended questions about what is happening in the story, what they would feel like if it happened to them or what they see in the book’s illustrations.

You can also plan activities that are related to themes in the books your child is reading. For example, if your child is interested in large construction machines, you could visit a construction site or the sales lot of a construction equipment business.

You don’t always need to make special plans for reading—any type of reading material is helpful. Your child may be more interested in reading:

Making reading part of a daily routine is the best method for showing how important reading skills are.

Finally, it’s always good to remember to model reading yourself. When you show interest in reading, children watch and imitate you. When you share reading materials with them, it’s easier for them to get into reading, too. They learn reading is not just important in school, but in life. When they return to school in the fall, they may find they are even better readers than they were in the spring.

For more information about the possibility of falling behind on youth’s academic achievement over summer vacation, read “The summer slide of knowledge – true or false?” by Michigan State University Extension.

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