Practice is key to mastery, and this is for sure true when it comes to young readers. Students who read during the summer have often maintained or even improved their reading skills. It also helps students when they return in the fall because they are better prepared. Summer reading doesn’t always have to be from books, and we have an opportunity to impress the importance of reading on our children and teach them how to gain enjoyment from reading.

During the summer, it is also a great time to check out the local library. They often offer summer reading programs for children. It is very gratifying for the kids to choose their books to check out to take home. However, we as adults have to remember that it is OK for them to choose a book that might be too hard or even too simple. The objective is to use this time as a learning opportunity and practice discovery in a safe environment. Pictures can teach us a lot, so don’t stress if they choose a book with many images or one that is way too easy. Again, this is an opportunity to discover and learn on their own.

A few things you might consider as you move into the summer with kids being home.

Lead by example: Point out throughout the day things you read: titles, calendars, messages on your phone.

Read everything everywhere: Read signs, ads, menus, and things around the house. Challenge kids to find objects and read titles.

Check out the library: Weekly trips to the library are an excellent activity filling time and providing many materials to read.

When you read something aloud, or they read something, ask questions. Then, take their understanding to the next level by explaining what you read or what they read.

Journaling: Keeping a summer journal is a great way to reinforce not only writing but reading. Have the kids read what they wrote from previous days. Not only does this reinforce their reading skills but also their writing skills. They will learn to recognize grammar errors and make changes quickly.

Another great activity for summer reading is to have kids read a book and then have them retell the story using just the pictures from the story, allowing children to gain a greater understanding of what they have read and build their comprehension. You can also read a story to them and have them create pictures for the story. Using their images, have them retell the story.

Summer is a time for practice. Kids like looking at word DNA (Spelling). First, have them locate open one-syllable words (the vowel is long: me, go, be). Then find closed, one-syllable words (the vowel is short: man, run, sit). Next, locate one-syllable words with a vowel team (the first vowel is long: team, rain, boat). Next, move on to “r” controlled words (for, first, are). Then move to find silent e words (same, ripe, robe). Working on this word hunt DNA activity will help with their spelling and their ability to decode words while they are reading.

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Scott Smith is a 40-plus year Umatilla County educator and serves on the Decoding Dyslexia Oregon board as its parent/teacher liaison.

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