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Tricia Offutt

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Keep kids reading over summer with these 5 tips

Is there anything better in this hot summer sun than to rush down a slide at a local splash parks?

Unfortunately, there’s another type of summer slide that you don’t want your kids to go down. This one is coined “summer learning loss” by researchers. Simply put, it means that when children don’t take time to read regularly and engage in other learning activities over the summer, they can slip, slide and lose some ground before school begins again in the fall.

Added up from year to year during elementary school, this “summer slide” can become quite the challenge for some kids. In fact, according to the National Summer Learning Association, “Summer learning loss in the elementary school years alone accounts for at least half of the ninth-grade reading achievement gap.”

Now, does this mean that we as parents need to set up boot camps and push the joy out of summer time? Absolutely not! I am the first to urge families to make those play dates, take those vacations, and simply enjoy the magic of time away from your school-year routines. There is life-long value both to creating memories and soaking up the learning that comes from these experiences.

My advice as a former teacher simply is to make reading a part of your summer break. And make it as novel and fun as you possibly can so that it becomes something your children look forward to rather than dread like afterschool homework.

Here are a few tips:

Come to Camp Read-a-Lot. Come kick your summer off right and visit us at Camp Read-a-Lot on Friday, June 15 from 2-7 p.m. at KPeas Place. The cost is $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Families will receive a free copy of my children’s book, Bucket 96: From Lemons to Clear Water, while supplies last. During this event, we will play reading-themed games, sing around the camp fire with Miss Karen, get messy with hands-on water experiments related to my book, and curl up to read under the “stars.” This event is especially designed for elementary-aged kids but both older and younger siblings are most welcome. Stay and play all afternoon or drop in for as long as you like. When you’re ready to hit the trail, make some s’mores mix to take along. For more information, call 813-814-4193 or read more about the event online at https://www.facebook.com/events/219610608793558/.

Revive the read aloud. Sometimes the simplest approach is also the most effective. If you do nothing else with reading this summer, then read aloud every day with your kids. Hands down, the best read-aloud resource that I know of is Read-Aloud Revival. It is packed with free downloadable reading lists organized by age, topic, and more. Sarah Mackenzie, the author of The Read-Aloud Family and creator of the site, is a homeschooling mom who also hosts a free podcast. If this site doesn’t inspire you to read aloud as a family, probably nothing will! (A big thank you to local author Brooke Cooney for introducing me to the Read-Aloud Revival.)

Form a family book club. Pick a book or even better, a book series, that your family is interested in reading together. Choose a special time and spot to read the book daily. Can you pile pillows and blankets on the living room floor or read under your favorite tree in the backyard? Make this time memorable. You may choose to read aloud together or agree on a set amount to read then read silently together. Do take time to about what’s happening in the story, make predictions, critique the writing, compare characters in one book to another, etc.

Read and watch. Select one or more books that were made into films. Read the book together and then have a family movie night. You can have rich discussions to compare the book and movie versions of a story.

Revisit goodies but oldies. Go through your at-home library and make a trip to your local library as well to pick out old-time favorites. Think of all the books you used to read a million times when your kids were toddler and early elementary age. Also include books you loved as a child that you want to share with your children this summer.

Host a book swap. Check with some other families to see whether they want to set up a book swap. Children can recommend and share books with friends and go home with some “new” books of their own. Another option is to pick out some gently used books at home or a local thrift shop and then “trade” those in for another book at one of our local little free libraries. To see if there is a little free library you, search the Little Free Library map.

Tricia Offutt, author of the children’s book Bucket 96: From Lemons to Clear Water, is a Florida K-6 certified teacher and a journalist with more than a decade of experience. For more information, visit www.bucket96.com or www.triciaoffutt.com.

Copyrighted 2018 by Tricia Offutt. All Rights Reserved.

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