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Fun ways to improve reading fitness and avoid the summer slide

With vacations, camps, outdoor adventures, playdates and relaxed daily routines, the summer break from school can turn into a break from reading as well. The Scholastic Kid & Family Reading Report found that 20% of kids surveyed read zero books during the summer. But the summer months are a crucial time for kids to exercise their reading abilities.

Many studies show that students who read infrequently or avoid books entirely in the summer see their reading abilities stall or drop significantly. When they return to school, many have lost core reading skills and struggle to get back on track.

But you can turn a child’s summer reading into a fun experience for the whole family. Corbett Prep teachers are encouraging families to view summer reading as a way to celebrate reading rather than an extended homework assignment. During the academic school year, Corbett Prep teachers commit to developing a climate that ignites a love of literacy, and they extend that approach into the summer.

Here are some teacher tips and suggestions to ensure your kids keep flexing their literacy muscles this summer and avoid the summer slide.

Relax your definition of “book.” Children can gain the benefits of reading from many places beyond traditional books. Graphic novels are a great place to start. Combining illustrations and text captivates visual learners, Corbett Prep teachers say, and has proven to help students with reading comprehension.

Cookbooks also provide unconventional reading opportunities. Find a recipe for your aspiring reader and have him or her read it aloud while you cook together.

Taking a road trip this summer? Try an audiobook for the drive. Audiobooks are valuable for inspiring readers, building vocabulary and increasing comprehension. If you need suggestions, check out the list of books that won the Audie Awards, which honor excellence in audiobooks and spoken entertainment in many categories.

Hold a competition. Some kids respond well to challenges and contests. Design your own or follow an existing one. Several challenges offer rewards that may motivate reluctant readers. The Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge allows students to log minutes online, unlock digital rewards and help donate books to kids in need. The Tampa Bay Rays works with local libraries to reward kids for reading a certain number of hours, giving them prizes when they reach the different bases. Barnes & Noble offers a free book for kids who complete reading journals during the summer.

Discuss books and articles together. Have your family read a book together and hold your own book club. Or start small with an article everyone reads that they can talk about at dinner. Corbett Prep teachers provided families this summer with access to websites that have family-friendly news articles available.

Try a creative camp. Summer reading camps often incorporate games, activities and crafts that bring to life the books campers read. Corbett Prep’s CAMP IDS offers reading-related camps for all ages. Prekindergarten campers enjoy story time and activities that tie into letter recognition or the book’s theme. “Wondrous Writers” campers discuss how authors connect with their readers and apply the same strategies as they write their own books at camp. Middle school students can sign up for “Teen Magazine,” where they write movie reviews, editorials and features – and read, critique and edit others’ work.

Let your kids lead. Take your kids to the library or bookstore and let them choose something to read that appeals to them, even if it means getting a book that you may consider too young or easy. It’s important to remember that if it interests them, they are more likely to read it.

And just having books around the house makes a big difference. Two professors from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, conducted a three-year study on the “summer slide.” Professors Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen found a much higher level of reading achievement when students had books readily available to read at home. Students who read during the summer gained as much as a month of reading proficiency.

It’s like an athlete, Allington said when the study was released in 2010. A hockey player who hangs up his or her skates for three months in the offseason loses skills. The same goes for readers.

So think of it as helping your children work on their reading fitness. An approach that includes creativity and fun will turn summer reading into an activity of their own choice rather than something they have to do.

Courtney Cairns-Pastor
Courtney Cairns-Pastor
Courtney Cairns-Pastor is the Content Creator and Social Media Coordinator at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS. After 15 years as a newspaper reporter covering education, parenting, health and local issues, Courtney changed careers and now tells the story of Corbett Prep. During the week, she’s busy creating content about the private school and managing its social media. On the weekends, you’ll find her running on Bayshore, reading obsessively and cheering on the Tampa Bay Lightning. She lives in Seminole Heights with her husband and son.

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