EveryDay Learners wrote this article two weeks ago in the Daily Herald. Brad Wilcox and Tim Morrison share great ways to keep your children reading this summer.
Most of the time, the words ‘summer’ and ‘slide’ conjure up images of fun vacation activities. But when you’re talking about literacy, the term ‘summer slide’ evokes a much more serious picture: young students who lose much of the knowledge they gained during the school year because they don’t participate in educational activities during the break.
But don’t worry: the summer slide isn’t an inevitable part of vacation. There are many things parents, friends, or mentors can do to prevent the summer slide.
Have Books Available
One of the best things you can do to combat summer learning loss is to make sure there are books available in your home. Choose a variety of books for your children, either by investing in building a home library or by visiting your local library frequently.
According to Brad Wilcox, associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Brigham Young University, the more children practice reading, the better they will get. Children’s ability to read does not only affect them scholastically, but also for future life.
“It’s not just about preparing kids to earn a living, it is about helping them get a life,” says Wilcox. “If kids are just spinning wheels with electronic games, then they are not engaged in learning. We want them engaged in ideas and experiences.”
Making sure there are books around for your children to read is just the first step to encouraging literacy during the summer. It is also important for us to show interest in what our kids are reading. By asking them questions, it shows that we value reading and are interested in their progress.
“Showing interest is a key component to children’s success in reading,” says Wilcox. “Engage in conversation about books your children are reading, whether you have read the book or not.”
Tim Morrison, associate professor in the Department of Teacher Education at Brigham Young University, agrees.
“It doesn’t mean that your children read the book and you then test them, but instead engaging in a discussion with your children about what they are reading and letting them explain what they understand,” says Morrison.
One great way to show your interest in reading is to read aloud to your children. According to a Scholastic Report, 23% of parents say their child stopped being read books aloud at home before age 9. Yet 83% of children say being read aloud to is something they loved or liked a lot.
“Many parents are passing on reading aloud to their children,” says Wilcox. “Reading aloud used to be an expectation of parenthood. The answer to increasing our children’s literacy is not in television or electronics. The answer is to sit down and read a book.”
Reading aloud allows parents to spend quality time with their children while helping them increase their literacy. There are other benefits that come specifically from reading aloud with your children.
“Kids will get more vocabulary from having heard a book read aloud than from normal conversation or instruction,” says Morrison. “You are flooding children with language when you read aloud with them.”
Reading aloud to our children is only one way to make reading more exciting and fun. There are many other ways to bring reading to life and help motivate our children.
Both Morrison and Wilcox suggested to allow children to read what interests them, even if it is a comic book or other type of graphic novel. Reading builds language and vocabulary, regardless of the type of book they read.
If you are the type of parent that likes to give rewards, Wilcox has advice for the reward system.
“Do not give rewards for the number of books or pages a child reads, instead measure the amount of time read,” says Wilcox. “If you give prizes for completion, make the prize connect to literacy such as a book, journal, or colored pencils.”
While literacy is important, it is especially important during the summer because children have less educational structure in their day-to-day lives. Utilizing these four suggestions can help prevent children from sliding head first down the “summer slide.”
As parents, mentors, and friends, we should strive to help children improve their literacy this summer.
“Literacy gives you experiences that you cannot have any other way,” says Morrison. “Helping people become better readers is something we can focus on for a lifetime.”