Memorial Day weekend came early this year, but I was late planting my annual flowers. Typically, I hustle to get them in right after Mother’s Day. My busy life didn’t provide an opportunity till this weekend and I spent part of Saturday and Sunday enjoying this happy ritual. Once those flowers are in, I know the stream of warm, lazy summer days is within reach. Like me, you are probably engaged in preparing your home for summer. Whether planting flowers, setting up the deck or opening the pool, there is a sense of joy and anticipation in the air. May I suggest that you save a little of that energy to prepare positive literacy experiences for your child throughout the summer months.
Research repeatedly reveals that most children are victims of the “summer slump”. Most students end the school year having made significant gains in their literacy skills. Then, summer beckons and the reading quickly takes a back seat to other activities. I always tell my students, “You never take a vacation from reading” because once September rolls around, I see the detrimental effect of the summer slump.
The tiny flowers I planted yesterday, reminded me of seedling readers. Like those flowers, many children are just beginning to blossom as readers. And like those flowers, without constant care, their budding reading skills will wither and die. Humor me as I extend this analogy and offer up a few ways to help your budding readers continue to thrive and blossom over the summer months…
- CREATE THE PROPER ENVIRONMENT Environment is as important to readers as it is to plants. Now is the time to organize baskets of appropriate books and magazines, order subscriptions, and stock up on word games. Make your house a print-rich environment. Remember, also, that summer offers lots opportunities to build your child’s background knowledge. Any new experience counts. Offer up flyers, books or articles prior to, during, or after a venture and let your kids learn even more
- “WATER” EACH DAY . We all know what will happen if I get lazy and fail to water those baby plants regularly. It’s the same deal with a budding reader. Failing to read on a regular (read DAILY) basis is essential if you want your reader to bloom. A blend of independent reading and read-alouds will keep skills fresh and enable your child to continue his reading progress. Now is the time to give some thought to how that will look at your house. Talk to your child, work out a plan, but most importantly commit to the plan.
- FERTILIZE WITH CHOICE AND CHANGE If I want those flowers to grow as big and strong as possible, I’ll fertilize regularly to insure optimal growth. Fertilize your child’s literacy skills by providing choice and change. Regular trips to the library open countless opportunities for growth. In addition to books on every available subject and level, local libraries offer wonderful activities to motivate and educate. Take advantage of them and instill that desire to learn in your child. Although I’m a big believer in having a “Reading Routine”, change things up a bit once in a while. Have a “reading picnic”, make up reading games, invite other kids to participate in a Reader’s Theatre (google this term and find scripts for free). Anything that makes reading enjoyable can count as a good fertilizer for your budding reader.
- PRUNE OUT THE WEEDS As summer unwinds, it’s easy to get sidetracked. Help your kids avoid too much screen time and wasted time. Don’t allow lack of attention to rob your child of essential practice that he needs to stay consistent as a reader and hit the ground running when the school bell rings. Plant the seeds now, nurture them regularly throughout the summer months, and you’ll bask in the knowledge that you did everything you could to help your reader bloom!