Newswise — Kids need to recharge mentally over summer vacation. But if they skip reading and writing from June to August, they’ll lose skills learned during the previous school year, says Debbie Corpus, a professor of education at Butler University, who specializes in reading instruction.
To help keep those skills limber, parents should provide summer reading T.A.F. — time, access and fun.
Time: Corpus recommends having a predictable time every day where everyone drops everything to read – right after lunch or supper or the hour before bedtime, for example. “This lets children plan for their reading and know that they carry an extended story in their heads from one day to the next.” It signals that reading is a natural part of the day.
Keep books and kids’ magazines in the car for reading while running errands or waiting to pick up another child. Carry books and magazines for yourself, too, so you are modeling the joy of reading during “down” times.
Access: Find kids’ reading materials at a public library and local bookstores, as well as:•Websites that feed children’s interests and hobbies. •Online books for reading on an iPod or Kindle. •Brochures and websites for local attractions and potential vacation sites. •Cookbooks and recipe websites, to let kids plan and cook simple meals.
Encourage children to re-read favorite books. Corpus recalled her now college-age son reading the Harry Potter books many times. “He found comfort in the predictable stories. Vocabulary that was unfamiliar in the first or second reading made sense in the series’ context and became part of his own vocabulary.”
Make informal writing part of students’ summer routine. “Have kids start a five-year diary, writing a five- or six-line entry each day,” Corpus said. “When 2011 rolls around, they will be anxious to see what they wrote on that date in 2010 and ready to add to it. You’ll all treasure the memories the entries bring back.” Trip logs are another form of diary. Include kids’ drawings of their experiences.
Fun: Most adults read by the 80/20 rule, Corpus said, meaning that 80 percent of what they read is “fun” reading: newspapers, magazines, websites, popular novels, mysteries, etc. “Only 20 percent challenges us intellectually. We need to allow our children the same leeway.”
Let kids enjoy reading engaging novels, interesting websites, joke books, silly stories and picture books. Subscribe to magazines with brief, interesting articles for older children and teens. “The Reader’s Digest or The Week will hook kids with their jokes, columns and life stories (especially if the magazine is kept in the bathroom).”
All children, but especially boys, like to feel that reading has some “social utility” that will help them make and keep friends, Corpus said. “Boys hooked on video games can read ‘cheat’ books and share that knowledge with others. They can wow their friends with sports knowledge from books on their favorite games or players.” Having a reading buddy and participating in book clubs or online books discussions also add a social dimension.
Check out the many Internet sources that encourage children’s reading and writing. Corpus likes “Guys Read” (www.guysread.com) by author Jon Scieszka (The Time Warp Trio series) and the “Parents” guide at www.scholastic.com. Parents and teachers wanting to engage older boys and teens as readers have found the writings of Jeffrey Wilhelm and Michael Smith helpful.
Professor Deborah Corpus, Ed.D., oversees elementary reading methods instruction for the Butler University College of Education. Before coming to Butler in 1997, she was a curriculum coordinator and reading recovery teacher for an Indianapolis public school district. She is publications chair for the Indiana State Reading Association and past president of the Indiana Council of Teachers of English Indiana Teachers of Writing.
To find other Butler University experts, visit http://www.butler.edu/experts/.