The summer months offer a great opportunity to show your child how fun and engaging reading can be. Looking to strengthen your child’s reading skills while simultaneously getting him excited about reading? Here are five ways to do just that:
1. Participate in a summer reading challenge.
Summer reading programs provide your child with a chance to set summer reading goals. Local libraries and organizations often offer summer reading challenges according to age group. Generally, these programs consist of your child logging the number of books she reads over an allotted time period. She may then receive prizes or incentives depending on the number logged and her goal. Summer reading programs are a great way to get her motivated and excited about reading and also teach her how to set and achieve goals.
2. Encourage library time this summer.
The library is a great place to encourage summer reading because it offers a plethora of opportunities to make reading fun. Libraries typically have some type of reading corner or space set up for kids. Take your child to the library for an afternoon or evening once a week and let him explore, sit down to read books, and check out what he may want to read in the coming week. This is a great way for him to explore various book genres and to have a sense of pride in having his own library card. Libraries also offer resources, such as librarians and story times, that can teach him even more about the joys of reading and how the library works.
3. Create a book mystery box.
At the beginning of the summer, visit a local bookstore and purchase a variety of books geared toward your child’s interests and reading level. Add these books to a mystery box for her to select from on a weekly or biweekly basis. This can be a great way to get her excited about reading because it gives her something to look forward to once she finishes the book she is currently reading. You can even take it a step further and incentivize chores and good behavior with a new book she can pick from the mystery box.
4. Take summer reading to the streets.
Remember that all reading counts, so encourage your child to practice his reading skills everywhere he goes. He can read billboards, street signs, shop names, and age-appropriate magazines. This can help younger children understand that reading is a part of every aspect of life, and it can act as a way to keep him engaged during outings. You can create challenges that encourage him to read a certain number of words—and to understand their meanings—while you’re out each day. This number can reflect the length of your outing and can be a fun way to get him excited about going out. Additionally, you can incorporate this challenge into family vacations. When traveling to new destinations, he may encounter words he is somewhat unfamiliar with and can, therefore, work to expand his vocabulary.
5. Make summer reading a social experience.
Encouraging conversations about reading is essential to summer reading success. After your child finishes a book, have a discussion with her about it (better yet, read the same book she is). Ask questions about how she liked the story, what characteristics the various characters possessed, and if there were any words or aspects of the story she struggled with. This will encourage her to be open about her reading habits and what she is enjoying about these books. It can also help gauge how her reading is progressing and what style of book she prefers.
Additionally, reach out to other parents, either in your child’s class or in the neighborhood, to see if they would be interested in starting a summer reading group or book club. This will show your student what others are reading this summer and encourage her to openly discuss books and stories with others. Libraries or local independent bookstores may offer book clubs for various age groups, so do some research to see what programs may be available for your child to make the most of summer reading.
Caitlin Grove is an Associate Content Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.
By Angela Zimmerman, Common Sense Media
When I opened the gates to screen time for my 2-year-old daughter, I was planning to limit it to airplanes and sick days. But with TV and tablets came a whole new colorful world that hooked my tot instantly, and her new word -- "cartoons!" -- became a constant refrain. Almost overnight, her obsession with books and our sweet ritual of reading became a distant memory to her little toddler brain. Screens offered something much more exciting.
I felt OK introducing screen time, especially since most of the time I snuggle up on the couch and watch with her (which is why I now know every single word of Moana), to make the TV time as interactive and educational as I can. And the apps we've let her play with are all highly rated for learning. But when it came time to reading books together, her previously enthusiastic interest was now drawn to a shape-shifting demigod voiced by the Rock.
I was worried. For me, books are more than fun and educational. They're a family tradition. My own lifelong passion for reading was sparked by my mother's nightly read-aloud sessions with me and my sister. We never skipped a night, and it was truly a highlight of my childhood. I may not follow every custom my mom handed down (like her tendency to embroider our names on anything she could stick a needle into), but I know that a love of books is worth preserving. I want my kid to treasure that magical reading time as much as I did growing up, despite the irresistible pull of singing animals, animated princesses, and sweeping soundtracks (seriously, it's hard to compete with Lin-Manuel Miranda).
So I had to dig deep to come up with extra-special reading experiences to compete with all that sparkly screen entertainment. My hope is that these tips and tricks will cultivate positive and passionate literacy habits she'll have the rest of her life.
Make it a daily ritual.
Every night, without fail, before my daughter heads to bed, we read at least two books together, usually more. On the nights she's wound up and super resistant to sleep, this routine puts her in a mellow mood and helps her relax. By the time I turn the first page, she's already heavy-lidded and sucking her thumb.
Let them pick.
Your kid is bound to have favorite books, and you will inevitably groan inwardly (and probably outwardly) when she asks you to read The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the 200th time. But it's those cherished favorites that will always comfort and entertain. (If we go for a third book, Mommy gets to pick. Otherwise we'd never rotate our library.)
Find a quiet, special space.
We used to read in the rocker next to her crib, but on those nights she didn't want to go to bed, she put up a fight just to enter her room. Then we used to read on the couch, but there are inevitably distractions -- the basketball game is on, the dog is barking at the neighbors, there's music on the stereo. So I created our own special reading space on the bed in the guest room. It's stocked with pillows and blankets, and I light some candles and lay out the book selections on the bed with us. It's our insta-special reading spot! (It sure doesn't take much with a toddler.) You can do this anywhere you have enough room for two.
Don't freak out and completely eliminate screen time.
Once you've introduced TV and tablets to your toddler -- and discovered his or her voracious appetite for it -- you don't need to panic and pack it all in. Well-chosen, high-quality media has proven benefits and is fine when balanced with other activities. Try to be strategic with when, how often, and how much you let them imbibe.
Keep the selection fresh.
Hit the library regularly, and check out stuff by their favorite authors or in their preferred genres. Libraries are key, since you never know what they're going to like, and you don't want to shell out bucks for books they won't touch. Need recommendations? Check out some of Common Sense Media's fave books for toddlers.
Find print books with sensory experiences.
You can load up your Kindle or tablet with digital books when traveling, but let them enjoy the tactile experience of turning pages and touching different textures. My kid loves books with an interactive element, such as flaps and dials or scratch-and-sniff spots. Her favorites include Mama's Pajamas, which has an array of different fabrics, and Dance, which uses cardboard levers to make different animals dance.
Keep 'em all over.
We keep a few books in the car and a stack by the potty, and she gets to take one to bed every night. It may be overkill, but it gives her an opportunity to connect with books at every step. Studies have even shown that having lots of books at home can give kids a big boost in school.
Resist the begging with clever excuses.
When my kid gets really stuck on something and wants to do nothing but watch Frozen, I tell her Elsa and Anna are sleeping. She accepts that without question. Sure, it's a white lie, but it's for her own good (and the sanity of me and my husband). A lifelong love of reading is a gift you can give to your kids that they will carry forever. One day she'll thank me!
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.
It’s an easy trap to fall into: You tell your kid to read for 20 minutes and he can have extra video-game time. Or ice cream. Or something new and shiny. Yet when we reward our children for spending time with a book, we are focusing their intention away from the act of reading and from their own independence as readers. But is it really possible to create an atmosphere at home where reading is seen as its own reward?
“Yes!” says literacy expert Barbara Marinak, dean of the Division of Education at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD, and co-author, along with Linda Gambrell, of No More Reading for Junk. “Give children unlimited access to books and other material, see that their reading material is relevant, and give kids a choice about what, where, and when to read. And always, always talk about what you read.”
The best way to nurture a love of reading is to let children take ownership of that part of their lives, honor their choices, and share in the worlds opened up to them from reading.
How to Give Your Child Optimal Access
Research shows that more access to books—and an environment that supports reading—increases a child’s interest in reading. So providing a wealth of reading material at home is the place to start. Create a dedicated space for your child’s library. Kids’ interests change quickly, Marinak says; she suggests adding new titles from regular trips to the library or bookstore, and passing along books your child has finished reading. “It affords them a chance to share something they loved, which is a very empowering feeling,” she adds.
Give Kids a Voice
Educators agree: Children are more likely to be motivated to read when they choose their own books. In fact, choice, Marinak says, “is the single most powerful motivator for humans, period. Home is where kids can and should have limitless choice.” Beyond allowing children to choose what to read, give them the freedom to select where and when as well. Under the piano bench with the dog? Fine. Standing in the ocean with the waves lapping his ankles? No problem.
Because children can get overwhelmed reading texts that are too hard, and bored with those that are too easy, ask your child’s teacher to recommend books to add to your home library, including high-interest, moderately challenging options, as experts often suggest. If your child loves series, by all means let her read every last volume. Same thing with favorite authors. Ask questions like “How did number four compare to number three?” or “What do you think the author is going to do with that character in the next book?” Try to avoid yes/no answers; series, especially, invite good opportunities to compare and contrast.
Parents as Partners
Marinak doesn’t believe in mandating a set amount of time or number of pages children must read at home. If kids don’t naturally gravitate toward reading, she suggests reading with them. Crack open a cookbook and read a brownie recipe together while you bake. Read directions for a board game or DIY kit. Some readers need options, and parental company, to help them come around to finding their own pleasure in the written word.
Rewards for reading do not help children become motivated readers either, says Marinak, who wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on the topic. You may get a short-term result, but once a prize isn’t dangling, he won’t be motivated to do it again. “If you must reward your child for reading, offer an extra 10 minutes of read-aloud time before bed or go online and pick out a new book together. The best way to nurture a love of reading, however, is to let children take ownership of that part of their lives, honor their choices, and share in the worlds opened up to them from reading. Set the stage early, and your child is in for a lifetime of learning and pleasure.
Pam Abrams is a writer and mother of two who splits her time between the city and the country, and frequents the farmers’ markets in both locations.
I’ve never had parents say exactly these words to me when they come for a well-child visit for their six-month-old, but it’s what the look on their face more or less says. As a pediatrician, I participate in Reach Out and Read, a program that trains health-care providers to give exactly this kind of advice: spend time every day reading together with your children, starting when they’re infants.
It wouldn’t be a very good program, however, if we simply dispensed the advice on what to do and didn’t address how to do it. For many of you reading this, you may have had the advantage of being read to yourself, or of seeing others around you read to young children, giving you an idea of how to carry out this advice. But for others—you may not know what to do.
For many, being told to read aloud might remind us of grade school, where someone read exactly what it said on the page, and everyone else sat quietly and listened. That might work nicely for third-graders, but it’s unlikely that a mouth-everything-in-sight infant or a squirmy toddler is going to follow that plan. Some parents may, when faced with a seemingly unruly audience, assume that their young child doesn’t like being read to—and be discouraged from trying again.
The key is that reading to very young children follows different rules. I’m going to give you permission to not do some things:
- You don’t need to read every page
- You don’t need to read pages in any specific order
- And you don’t even need to actually read what it says on the page.
Let the child hold the book and manipulate it. This means she’ll turn pages back and forth, or go backward, or pick out random pages. She may even mouth it instead of looking at it. This is all normal behavior for an infant or toddler.
You certainly can (and should) point at things on the pages and name them. Even better, when your baby touches or points at something on his own, name it for him so he hears the word. This is also a great opportunity to elaborate a little: “Yes, it’s a boat. A red boat!”
This means you can pick out books that might even be “very advanced” in terms of reading level, because your focus will be mostly on the pictures. The book may even be in a language you don’t understand, but you can still enjoy the images together with your child.
Finally, don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t wish to look at books for more than a few moments. Infants and toddlers have naturally short attention spans. Sometimes they might not be in the mood. It’s OK to move on to something else and try again at another time.
By allowing your child to control what’s being looked at and discussed, you’re more likely to maintain her interest. Don’t worry about the fact that you might never get to read the actual story. When she’s a little older, she’ll be more able to sit and listen to the story itself. What you’re building now is a comfort with books and the association of books with something she’ll treasure above all: your love and attention.
Dipesh Navsaria, M.P.H., M.S.L.I.S., M.D., father of two, is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He practices primary-care pediatrics at a federally qualified health center in South Madison....
Learning vocabulary is a milestone of reading and writing skills, as well as something kids do daily—sometimes without noticing. Whether your child needs to learn a specific set of vocabulary words or you’re looking to simply expand his vocabulary, here are ways to help.
1. Post words everywhere
In addition to—or instead of—flash cards that your child can keep in her back pocket and whip out during any downtime, try posting the words where your child will see them most often. This could be above her dresser, on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator, in the notebook she carries around, on a bookmark, etc. Increasing the amount of interactions your child has with the words will help her memorize and comprehend them easier.
2. Learn word groups
The danger of drills and simple repetitions is that words are isolated from the context in which they function (i.e., phrases and sentences), which makes it more difficult for kids to remember them. Encourage your child to learn the words in groups that go together. For example, instead of crowd, think crowd of people—or, instead of data, think most accurate data. When studying a specific word, have your child list as many associations and connections as he can with the word, including drawing pictures of the word’s meaning.
3. Study context
Similar to word groups, understanding context is an important strategy for your child to study vocab more effectively. Have her consider the word in a sentence. What words often appear with or near it? Consider the context of the sentence also (formal? casual?). Can the word be used in multiple contexts or is it very particular? If you and your child are making flash cards, jot down a sentence from a book, an article, or another text with the word in it instead of just listing the definition of the word. To go a step further, have your child make up a new sentence with the word that has personal connections to her own life.
4. Use the words in daily life
Encourage your child to use the words in his day-to-day routine. You can choose one word, or a few words, per day or week. This might feel stilted at first, but it can be fun! Have your child pledge to use the word aloud or while writing, whether for homework or in his personal life (i.e., in a letter or an e-mail to a friend). If you choose to join the activity, you can model how you’d use the word, which will give him double the practice.
If widening your child’s vocabulary with no specific word list is the goal, prioritize reading. It’s one of the best ways to increase vocabulary while also improving your child’s comprehension skills and expanding her world view. Encourage your child to read books that are just a bit challenging for her; there should be just enough new words for her to learn, but not too many that reading becomes laborious and context clues are too difficult. In addition to independent reading, set aside time to read with your child. This is a great opportunity to tackle higher-level reading material—you can take turns reading aloud, or you can read aloud yourself.
6. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts
Listening is an excellent way for students to engage with material that they might not otherwise. Choose education-oriented or fun podcasts that you can listen to together or alone, preferably ones that speak to your child’s interests. Try videos as well; there are many videos that might address topical vocab words or that your child can put them into a song and dance routine
For years, flash cards have been touted as the way to learn vocab. This year, see how you might use them differently or even go without them. If your child has a study buddy or tutor, try incorporating some of these strategies in activities they already do.
During the upcoming holiday break, learning can easily slump. But it doesn’t have to! Here are six ways to incorporate learning into the holidays so your child goes back to school refreshed and ready to study.
1. Read for fun
Reading, as you know, develops vocabulary, critical-thinking skills, fluency, and even empathy. Take your child to the library or the local bookstore at the beginning of the break so he has an array of choices throughout the holidays (or books to take along during travel). Look for books you can read aloud together—you read to him, he reads to you, or a combination. Expose your child to a variety of books—comic books, graphic novels, magazines, poetry, etc. Audiobooks are also great for fluency and are excellent choices if the reading level is just a bit above your child’s.
2. Play together
Gather your family members for a game night that will be both fun and educational—whether your kids realize it or not. Choose games that involve strategy or have to do with literacy, counting, or guessing. Think chess, Scrabble, charades, or various iterations of them. Games like Jenga are great for motor skills. Have your child be the scorekeeper, a role that involves counting and calculating. Most games are educational in some way, and they will provide bonding time for the family. You could even encourage your child to create her own board game!
3. Get cooking
Welcome your child into the kitchen. You might start at the very beginning, such as having him plan a grocery list and helping you buy and calculate costs at the store. Baking is a great (and delicious) way to enjoy learning how to work with measurements, and it can be as simple or as complicated as you like. This direction might even take you and your child into the chemistry of cooking (perhaps try experimenting with different recipes of the same item and see what happens!) as well as conversations about other cultures, cuisines, and lifestyles.
4. Create DIY projects
Encourage your child toward DIY projects, which inspire creativity and problem-solving skills. There are some ready-made kits, which teach children to make their own soap or birdhouse, for example. Check out your local craft store for ideas and supplies, or do new activities you could try together. Turn these projects into holiday gifts or decorations. Teach your child a skill you know yourself, like knitting or crocheting. Finally, encourage your child in building and construction activities. You could use materials you already have at home, such as cardboard boxes, paper-towel rolls, toothpicks, and Popsicle sticks.
5. Perform writing and scrapbooking activities
To make writing fun, expose your child to different genres she may not experience at school, such as the aforementioned comic books, graphic novels, or poems. Have your child respond to books she reads by writing. She can keep a journal in which she writes whatever she wants. She might want to create lists in her journal, chronicle daily events or special occasions, write letters to her future self, or keep a dream journal. Suggest that she write holiday cards or letters to a pen pal or relative. You could also make this more tactile and visual by encouraging your child to scrapbook and collage with pictures and illustrations.
6. Take field trips with the family
Plan some outside trips—perhaps to a museum, local landmark, or historical site. Hiking would be great if the weather allows! Ask your child questions; you could even create a “treasure hunt” of the place if you like. Some museums provide optional, educational activities for children as well. If you’re planning on traveling during the break, involve your child in planning the schedule, reading maps, looking up places to go, figuring out transportation, and researching the historical background of the city or town.
Regardless of whether you stay home or go away for the holidays, your child can sustain his learning throughout the break. Capitalize on the time to encourage your child’s passions. Also consider asking your child’s teacher if he or she has any tips or suggestions!
“Some of the best memories are made in flip-flops,” says writer Kellie Elmore. But, sadly, all good things—even summer--must end. Fall is hinting at its arrival, and already it’s back to school.
As your kids swap their flip-flops for new school shoes and you begin to reinstate bedtimes, try putting daily reading back into your routine. These ideas will not only help beginning readers get their heads back in the game, but they’ll also help you continue to make great memories—with or without flip-flops.
- Everybody loves an audience—especially a furry one. Have your kids read aloud to pets, or even to a captive audience of stuffed animals.
- Let your child help you make a special reading spot—a cozy reading nook where he or she can settle in and read without distractions. Try draping a sheet over two chairs and adding some pillows to the floor.
- Declare it Laugh-a-Lot Day. Dig out the joke books and take turns reading jokes to each other. Use funny voices, or read while holding your nose. Bring out the comic books, and pore over the Sunday newspaper “funnies” together.
- Read aloud together. Take turns reading sentences, or pages.
- Create a reader’s theater. Assign yourself a character. Your child reads the narration, and you read the dialogue. Enlist the help of older siblings if other character voices are needed.
- Use technology to make reading fun. Record or video your child reading a story, encouraging the making of sound effects. Then watch him or her enjoy hearing it or watching it played back. For even more positive reinforcement, share the recording with an appreciative relative.
- Compose the beginning of a story, and let your child make up an ending for it. Add the child’s ending, your author bylines, and a title your child invents. Then sit back and let your child read the whole story back to you.
- For kids who find it hard to sit still, embed some reading practice into active games. Use sidewalk chalk to write sight words on a hopscotch board. Each time your child hops on a word, he or she reads it. Similarly, make a word version of Twister.
- Create a little suspense. Choose a few library books you think your child would like. Wrap each one in a brown paper bag, and write one sentence on each bag that hints at what the book’s about. At various times during the day or week, let your child choose a book. Have fun with the element of surprise.
- Instead of reading a bedtime story to your children when you tuck them in, let them tuck YOU in and read a story to you.
- Extend bedtime by 20–30 minutes—on the condition that your child use the time for reading. For added fun, darken the room and read by flashlight.
Christine French Cully is the editor in chief of Highlights for Children, Inc., where she is responsible for shaping the editorial direction of all the magazines, online content and products the company develops for children and their families. She plays a strategic, ongoing role in the development of the Highlights vision and brand across all markets and channels/around the globe. Cully, a mother of two, resides in Honesdale, Pennsylvania.
Summer is a great time for rest and relaxation, both for your child and the school community! However, you don’t want all your child’s valuable knowledge to shrink or disappear over the course of these months. Here are five ways to keep learning alive through the summer:
1. Read for fun
Some schools may require summer reading lists or projects to complete before the fall. Outside these assignments, encourage your child to find reading material that he enjoys. This may be easier for some students than others, depending on their level of engagement with reading itself. Help jump-start this process by researching award-winning or niche interest lists online, and visit your local library. The librarian can help, and sometimes there are even summer reading challenges that offer prizes upon completion. Especially if your child doesn’t like to read, exposing him to different genres can help widen what he thinks of as “reading.” These less-than-mainstream genres can include comics, poetry, and fan fiction. Reading is a great way for students to improve fluency and vocabulary, increase comprehension skills, and learn more about the world around them.
2. Do DIY projects and crafts
Creative projects are excellent ways to pass time during the summer while also building skills of problem-solving and innovation. Depending on your child’s interests, look into different DIY projects that she could get into. Would she like conducting a science experiment, learning how to knit, or directing a short film, for example? There are ways you could connect these projects to an interest or activity your child already appreciates, like learning to bake a cake if she likes sweet treats. Also consider which of your own skills and hobbies you could share with your child, as well as the skills of older siblings, cousins, or baby-sitters your child might spend time with this summer.
3. Go on field trips
Plan some field trips that you could take your child on. Look into what’s available in your community or within a reasonable travel radius like the zoo, an aquarium, museums, or community centers that are doing interesting local work—many of which have free or reduced admission for students! Don’t forget the park as well, where students can explore the outdoors and being in nature. Check your local newspaper or community newsletter for events, workshops, or movies in the parks that are especially geared toward kids. Additionally, if your family is traveling out of town, have your child do some research on the destination so he will be able to learn something new and get more out of the trip.
4. Attend camps for summer enrichment
Camps are one way for students to tap into the spirit of learning without the structure of school. There are traditional outdoor camps, as well as camps that have a special focus, like musical theater, 3D modeling and printing, or story writing. They come in all shapes and sizes: one week to months long, sleep-away or day camps, strictly or partially academic, etc.
5. Utilize online resources
Whether you’re a tech-savvy person or not, the Internet has an abundance of resources that your child can take advantage of. You might want to do an online search of educational games, video tutorials, or reading programs that can be accessed by computer, tablet, or phone—whatever is the preferred medium for you and your child. You could also look into shows or documentaries that would teach your child something new and that may be related to an interest of hers.
Summer can be a daunting yet exciting time for you and your child. It may help to create a routine or schedule around these activities, but at the same time, stay open to trying new ideas, as some may fail or fade with time. In any case, tap into your community—friends, family, and your child’s friends—to see what works for them and to do any activities together.
Check out the Highlights Summer Learning shop for workbooks and activity packs that blend learning, humor, puzzles, and FUN to help keep kids' school skills sharp all summer long!
Summer is here! And with the hot weather and longer days can come the “summer slide” – when children can lose months of hard-earned learning while they’re playing in the sprinklers and chasing the ice cream truck.
But, not to worry! A few easy steps can make a major impact in avoiding this potential pitfall. I founded Learning Heroes to help parents help their children be successful in school, and we’ve developed some simple tips to make sure your children don’t lose hard earned progress during the summer months:
- Make Reading a Family Affair: Maintaining a reading habit over the summer is essential for staying up to speed – it can also be a great avenue for family bonding. Try starting a family book club that meets on one scheduled night or morning a week. If your children are at different reading levels, one might read the book solo, while the other works with you. Let them choose the topic. There are many great tools to help you select the right book – check out the Great Kids book finder for some reading list inspiration. Pose questions like “What surprised you most about the book?” or “Who was your favorite character?” You’ll learn more about what your children have on their minds, all while keeping skills sharp for the school year ahead.
- Keep It Social: To make sure the dog days don't leave you out of the loop on new friends and influences, ask your child at least one open-ended question about their social lives per day (“Tell me about one good thing that happened today and one thing you wish happened differently”). Research tells us that adults are often the last to know about problems like bullying, and making sure peer relationships are part of your regular conversations at home will help you notice potential issues early.
- Start a College Conversation: Seventy-five percent of parents believe it is very important or absolutely essential for their child to attain a college education, according to a recent study conducted by Learning Heroes, and it’s never too early to start a conversation about this goal. One of the most powerful things we can do as parents to improve our children’s chances for success in college is so simple: talk about it! Your child may be thinking more about water balloons, but don't be deterred. Encourage them to talk to their camp counselors or coaches about where they went to school. If accessible, take a day trip to a nearby college and have a picnic on the lawn. You'll learn more about what interests them, all while laying the groundwork for a solid academic future.
- Tap into Screen Time: Even the most active children might find themselves with more time to veg over the summer. But not all TV has to be a guilty pleasure. Check out this guide to movie and TV shows that help young people build character strengths like compassion and curiosity. You can filter for the trait you want to nurture, point your children towards the right programs and make sure the message hits home.
The bottom line: a summer filled with fun on the slip and slide is no excuse for the dreaded summer slide! Give these tips a try with your children and check out more resources, ideas and even a Readiness Roadmap at www.BeALearningHero.org.
Bibb Hubbard is the Founder & President of Learning Heroes, an organization to build parent and guardian understanding and engagement in their child’s education. She is the mother of two boys, ages 11 and 14.
By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media Executive Editor, Parenting Content
When I was a kid my dad read to me every night. By age 5, I was traveling nightly through the worlds of The Hobbit or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Even afternoon naps would start with a bit of poetry.
When I had my kids, I knew that I wanted to raise them to be readers. I took to heart the lessons my father taught me -- that reading quickly or knowing how to pronounce long words aren't the important things, but loving the sound of language, identifying with the characters, and enjoying the journey into other worlds are what make reading fun.
By the time my youngest was learning to read, I was discovering graphic novels for myself, like Hope Larson's adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time and Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series. I noticed how attracted my son was to the images in my books. He would curl up with me and stare at the gorgeous illustrations and ask me about the characters and the stories. So we visited the comic book store and the library and started finding all sorts of graphic novels and cool comics for younger kids.
He started spending hours poring over these books, even though he could barely read the words. The illustrations, the exaggerated characters, and the way the panels were arranged to propel the stories forward were enough to keep his interest. Little by little he started reading bits out loud. He'd ask me to help him with the tougher words. And as soon as he finished one book, he'd ask for the next in the series. His most-loved series was a tie-in to his favorite TV show, Avatar: The Last Airbender, which gave him even more motivation to read and more backstory to each chapter.
Now he's a reading machine -- a top reader in his class! Without graphic novels, I'm sure he'd still be reading, but I'm not sure he'd be enjoying the process quite as much.
Some favorite graphic novels:
Lunch Lady series -- The heroes of this cartoony series are the cafeteria women who uncover secrets, thwart evil plans, and always save the day.
Squish series -- Super silly and almost nonsensical to adults, Squish takes kids into the world of an ameoba that's not that much different from a kids' world...sorta.
Bink & Gollie -- These three friendship tales are light and funny (and perfect for early readers), but still tap into regular kid experiences like jealousy and compromise.
Giants Beware! -- This fun quest turns the traditional princess story on its head with lovable, passionate characters.
Zita the Spacegirl -- Action-packed and full of fantastical creatures, Zita is a superhero story about a regular girl who gets zapped into a different galaxy.
Cardboard -- Amazing tale of a boy and his dad who create living creatures out of a cardboard box. A bit darker than some of the other titles.
Did you know that the first Saturday in May is Free Comic Book Day? Head to your local comic book shop and pick up a few free kid-friendly comics, plus download this free printable comic book coloring page!
Common Sense Media is an independent nonprofit organization offering unbiased ratings and trusted advice to help families make smart media and technology choices. Check out our ratings and recommendations at www.commonsense.org.