Summer Literacy Strategies: Elementary
-9 tips and tools to keep your elementary student engaged in learning all summer long -
It’s that time again: the school year is wrapping up, the weather is getting warmer, and kids are buzzing with excitement to get outside and play. Summer vacation is a great opportunity for kids to explore their interests, discover the world around them, use their imaginations, and just do what kids do when they’re not behind a desk. But all of that unstructured play time has some adverse implications. Research shows that after summer vacation, kids can lose up to two months of curriculum content knowledge that they gained over the school year, and teachers end up spending weeks in the fall reviewing content from the previous grade level. As most parents and teachers know, every second a child spends in the classroom is invaluable learning time. So how do we prevent the summer learning slide, especially in a content area as vital as literacy? Since kids typically aren’t in the classroom over the summer, preventing the summer literacy slide is largely in the hands of parents. But you don’t have to be a trained expert to help your kids practice their reading fluency or boost their vocabulary: check out these tips and activities to get your elementary student actively engaged in reading all summer long.
1. Enroll your child in your local library’s summer reading program
Almost all local libraries participate in summer reading programs, where kids can log the books they read over the summer and work towards reading incentives. Many libraries also have summer reading events, such as visiting authors, fairs, puppet shows, fitness activities, or readings. The events are a great way to motivate kids to read and to get more involved with your community.
2. Develop an at-home reading challenge
As an alternative or to supplement your library’s reading program, challenge your kids to a reading experience at home. Get creative with it: make it a game, craft, or even a physical activity. Our summer literacy Pinterest Board is filled with unique ideas, like summer reading bookworms or reading bingo. Cater to your child’s interests and make reading fun!
3. Use a summer reading list that is age or interest specific
The vast amount of children’s literature out there can be overwhelming: even going to the library with the intentions of picking out a few good books can be overstimulating for a lot of kids. So, before you take your child to select books, use age or interest specific lists to guide their reading experience. Search the internet to find book lists for kids who love dinosaurs, picture books, or by gender and age: many parents and teachers have taken the time to build amazing lists, so take advantage of the resources!
4. Get the whole family involved
Reading doesn’t have to be an individual, private activity. Kids love to share the excitement of stories and talk about what they’ve learned, so try incorporating reading into family time: grab a book on tape for a road trip, do a read-aloud of a great picture book once a week, or have your whole family read a book, then watch the film version together. You can also make a habit of teaching your child to read during daily activities: ask them to read you the recipe when you’re cooking, road signs in the car, or even the back of cereal boxes in the morning.
5. Practice essential vocabulary outside to boost fluency and get moving
For beginning readers, practicing reading fluency is of utmost importance for building literacy skills. Fluency involves reading quickly and accurately, and kids practice their skills using various techniques in class. But it’s vital that they keep up with these skills over the summer, so try to incorporate practice into fun outdoor activities, like sight word hopscotch or maybe a sight word water gun/balloon game. Your kids won’t even know they’re doing reading exercises.
6. Incorporate arts and crafts in writing
Explore new avenues of literature and bring out your children’s inner artist by working with them — or simply providing them with the tools — to write and illustrate their own picture book. To give them some guidance, download a printable blank journal or some comic book pages. Kids are great storytellers and love a finished product that they can be proud of, so let them go wild with narration and art while still practicing their writing skills. You’ll have a priceless keepsake at the end!
7. Combine reading with outdoor summer fun
Many kids shy away from reading in the summer because they truly just want to be outside and moving. But there are plenty of ways to incorporate literature and reading fluency with the great outdoors. Challenge your kids to read in different places in your backyard or neighborhood, or check out this list of activities that combine literacy with physical activity. Be a super-parent and help your kids to be smarter and healthier- all at once!
8. Download fun educational apps
In the age of digital learning, interactive literacy practice is readily available to any child who has access to a digital device. For research-based, effective programs that combine fun narratives, graphics, and games with valuable learning time, check out our educational apps, available for iPhones and iPads, covering everything from vocab, to multiplication, to Spanish. For the month of August, all World and Grammar Wonderland apps are free for iPad!
9. Set an example
We all know that kids are tiny imitators: what they see their parents, teachers, and older siblings doing, they are likely to do, too. So set a standard for reading in your home: take on your own grown-up summer reading challenge or read books before your kids do, so that you can discuss them afterwards. Who knows what you might discover about an unfamiliar topic, yourself, or your child. Remember: a literary home is a happy home!
For more summer literacy boosting resources and information about the summer slide, visit:
- Reversing the Slide: Evidence-based curriculum programs ready teachers to reduce learning loss
- Reinventing the Summer School Experience: 6 Ways to Propel Academic Growth.
- You can also read McGraw-Hill Education contributing author Tim Shanahan’s article “Can We Prevent the Summer Slide in Reading?” on how the summer slide affects disadvantaged students.