Research shows that children lose a portion of their learning during summer break if they aren't actively learning. You can read a short article by the National Summer Learning Association here. The "summer slide" can be prevented or lessened though with children reading a variety of books during their summer break.
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For example, my oldest daughter left 2nd grade at a low 3rd grade reading level. All summer long she read a variety of books. She found many early chapter books that she loved, as well as books from the non-fiction section of differing topics that interested her (fashion, cooking, ocean animals, and the Bermuda Triangle). When her 3rd grade teacher did the start of year testing to see what reading level she was on, they had to do the test twice because of unexpected results. Instead of being at a lower level as they had expected, she was at a 4th grade reading level already. The teacher told me that generally children lose about 2-3 reading levels during the summertime.
So what can you do to encourage their mind to keep working during the summer? Don't run out to sign kids up for summer school. Making reading a part of their summer is an easy way to continue their learning. Having a mixture of fiction and non-fiction books is a perfect balance. Do your kids love to read chapter books about dogs, fairies, princesses, mystical animals, magic, space, or travel? Let them read their chapter books, then head over to the non-fiction section of your favorite bookstore or library and pick a few books from that topic too. My youngest loves anything to do with animals and she loves the National Geographic Kids books with facts about animals.
So now you need ideas for encouraging kids to read. I've got just what you are looking for.
Fun Ways to Encourage Summer Reading for Kids
- Make reading a positive experience. Don't make it a chore or a "have to", let them know that they get to read. Changing that one phrase will make it a positive experience instead of a dreaded one.
- Bring out their favorites. During school, kids have to constantly read books that challenge them and sometimes their options at school aren't their favorites. Let them read their favorite books and series, even if it's a bit below their reading level. They are still practicing their fluency and building confidence.
- Have a fun reading spot. Let them build a fort with blankets, make a pile of pillows in their closet, take a blanket outside, set up a tent in the backyard, or a special spot on the couch. Having a fun and comfortable area where they can go to read will encourage them to go there more often.
- Visit the library. They can get recommendations from the librarian, look at fun book displays, participate in reading activities, and sign up for the summer reading program.
- Branch out from books. Sign up for some fun kids magazines (Lego, National Geographic Kids, Zoobooks, Disney FamilyFun for Kids, Yum Fun and Food for Kids), buy some comic books, check out an audio book, find interactive digital books.
- Online Resources. Most libraries have an online program where kids can download digital books or audio books to a tablet. Ours has Overdrive and it has so many options for books, audio books, magazines, and read along books for younger readers. Schools use online programs as well - Raz Kids and Imagine Learning for example.
- Sign up for summer reading programs. There are plenty of options for kids to earn free books, play online reading games, and receive other small prizes. You can find links to different programs here. My kids generally earn 2 free books, small prizes, and love to play the online games.
- Read as a family. Take some time in the evenings to read a book together as a family. It shows that you value reading, as well as making sure you have some special family time each night. We have read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and this year we are going to read From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
- Rewards for reading. The summer reading programs will have some rewards, but you can also do them in your own home too with small prizes. A trip to the Dollar Tree, ice cream with Mom, a new container of Play-Doh or a Hot Wheel Car, or a free book. You can do a fun Reading Bingo, print out a reading chart, or just keep track on your calendar.
Here's your list for fun ways to encourage kids to read this summer. I hope that a few of these ideas are useful to you.