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Tips for Summer Reading success to pass along to parents from NCCAT

By Ernest H. Johnson, Ph.D./NCCAT Center Fellow

In the next few days, schools bells indicating the last day of classes will ring across our state for most elementary and middle school students. For many students, the last day will give birth to the first day of their summer break. While schools are providing third-grade students with opportunities to increase their reading abilities, parents also play a vital role in helping children to find value in reading. Summer does not mean taking a break from learning, especially reading. Studies show that most students experience a loss of reading skills over the summer months, but children who continue to read actually gain skills. It is important for parent to make efforts during the summer to help children sustain reading skills, practice reading, and to read for enjoyment. If you do, then you will help your child to develop their visualization, thinking and language abilities.

In addition, since most of their reading will continue to occur outside of the classroom, your child will be more likely to realize that education does not stop at the classroom door. All of this is important because students who read well are more likely to excel in all of their course work. Parents should always be mindful that children need free time in the summer to relax and enjoy the pleasures of childhood. However, reading can be fun and children who continue to read actually gain skills. Also, don’t overlook the important connections between reading and writing. Some children who are reluctant readers find great freedom in expressing themselves through writing, poetry in particular. For other children, like those depicted in the movie, Freedom Writers, keeping a journal about their life experiences can be a pathway to books about similar experiences.

Dr. Maya Angelou is one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time, who recently died at her home in Winston-Salem, believed that the elimination of literacy problems is as serious an issue as the abolishment of slavery. Hailed as a global renaissance woman, Dr. Angelou was a celebrated poet, novelist, educator, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. In addition, she wrote books and poetry for children. Her books and poems discussed experiences that children can relate to, but they also provided a sense of hope to all who read the selections. This summer, if you take time to read with your child, you will discover if she or he is having trouble with reading. In some cases, the child may have a learning disability. It is important to have the difficulties with reading evaluated because 80% of children with a learning disability struggle with basic reading and language.

There is hope, however, because the early identification makes it possible to provide a child with the services they need to learn how to read. Without the ability to read and read effectively, there is not much hope that a child (with or without a learning disability) will acquire the skills to lead a successful and productive life.

Here are ten tips to make reading enjoyable for your children this summer:

1. Find out about the summer reading program at the library. Most libraries sponsor summer reading clubs for elementary and middle school students. They also offer special summer reading events and provide age appropriate lists for summer reading. Allow your child to choose what they want to read. If you don’t, then you will discourage reading and make it difficult for them to even pick up a book.

2. Read the same book your child is reading and talk about it. Nothing shows a child that you are interested in what they are reading like you reading the same book. Having some lively discussions over a tall-glass of lemonade or sweet tea is a great way to help your child develop their language and critical thinking abilities.

3. Read aloud together with your child every day. Reading outdoors—sitting under a tree, patio or deck, at the beach or park— can be fun. Take the time, with young children, to help them learn about the relationship between words and sounds.

4. Be a good example for your children—let them see you reading. Take your children to the library or bookstore when you are thinking about new books to read. And keep lots of different reading materials around the house. Have set times for reading where the TV is off and encourage discussions about what everyone in the house is reading.

5. Bring reading into all of your daily activities. Whatever you are up to - cooking, grocery shopping, picnics, fishing trips, walking around the mall, playing games, hiking, camping - use these opportunities to pick out words or read whatever materials that is available.

6. Make trips a way to encourage reading. Show your child how to read a map and let them be the navigator. Have them read traffic signs and billboards. When you stop for meals, have them read the menu.

7. Buy books on tape. Turn off the TV and have the family listen to them together. When traveling, always plan to have books on tape in your car. Books on tape are also especially good for children with a learning disability.

8. Encourage children to keep a summer journal of the books they read. Have your child describe each book and answer questions about why the book was important for them. Encourage them to collect artifacts that have some relationship to the books. In addition, have them attach souvenirs of their summer activities—pictures, postcards, movie stubs, etc.

9. Subscribe to magazines for your child…and put them in their name. Most children will look forward to receiving magazines like Sports Illustrated for Kids and the National Geographic World. Always talk to them about what they think about what they are reading. For many children, summer vacation means staying up late, going to the beach, hanging out with friends, and sleeping in.

10. For some children, it also means catching up on reading for fun and enjoying their favorite books. Unfortunately, many children view summer reading as a chore that is too closely related to schoolwork. Reading, for these children, is not fun and not thought of as a skill they are developing for their lifetime. Whereas it is challenging to create a culture of reading at home, parents can make reading exciting for everyone.

For example, the educational publisher Scholastic is trying to set a world record this summer for reading, hosting the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, taking place from May 5 through September 5. As of June 11, readers registered for the challenge had already read more than 123 million minutes, pushing the figure closer to the 2103 record of 176,438,473 minutes. Registration is free and children can take weekly challenges where they earn rewards. They can also keep up with how many minutes their school has logged. Parents can make the Scholastic challenge ( a fun competition between their children to see who reads the most books over the summer. Parents are provided with free book lists, activities, and tips.

Another way to add some excitement to reading is to embrace the written word on digital pages. Most children love technology and are more adept at using it than many parents. There are lots of educational apps that encourage reading, plus Apple’s iTunes library has many free books available for download. Google Play and Amazon also offer free book downloads as well. E-readers can be fun to use while traveling and lets users download their favorite books onto their Smartphone’s as audio books to listen to them.

Have fun reading with your children and please share any advice that can make summer reading fun and exciting with a comment below!

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