Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Keep Your Children Reading During Summer Break

Do you remember the last day of school for summer break when you were young? Anticipation of what you would be doing for all the long days, and extra time? Of course as children we most likely never even gave a thought to the idea that we could keep on learning over the summer break. This is why it is critical as parents we take an active role in emphasizing the importance of reading through the summer months.

Kids should have as much free time and fun as possible, but it is also important that they continue to read and engage their minds while away from the school day structure. Here are some ideas that can help your child be engaged in reading over the summer break.

Find out what's available with your library Summer Reading Program. Most public libraries have programs to encourage reading in the summer break. They typically have their reading lists available as a hand out at the Children's desk or online. The programs usually include incentives along the way and a chart to record their reading. They're designed to motivate the children to read and usually the library includes a special event to help keep the students focused on achievable goals with a prize or certificate of recognition.

Know what reading level is appropriate for your child. Before school lets out, check with your child's teacher and ask what his reading level is and also for suggestions to aid in specific areas your child should be working on. As the teacher for suggested books which should be read. The library staff will also be able to assist you based upon your children's reading level and interests.

Select books that your children will like. Most importantly, ask your children what things they'd like to discover -- if you focus on their interests, your child will typically be more motivated to take the time to read. Find a series of books they like, it will motivate them to ask for more. Stopping at the cliff hangers keeps them thinking about what may happen next. If your children like a particular style or special genre, there are plenty of reading lists for children and young adults.

In the weeks leading up to that summer vacation trip, seek out brochures and books about the places you'll visit. Brochures and trip guides, books and stories related to where you're headed can help build anticipation for the trip. Knowing what things they can be looking for will help keep the trips interesting. Looking up the history of how a place came to be can lead you to history, non-fiction, and fun facts about where you're headed. Reading reviews and looking up websites also provide ways to engage their minds.

Always continue to read aloud to your children. This is a valuable way to spend time with your children daily while helping them develop their desires to read when you read aloud. Your children will improve in their listening and vocabulary skills, increase their overall knowledge and give your family great subjects to discuss. They will enjoy the time together. This is also a great way to take turns reading aloud, which builds their skills. Or you can do all of the reading. Its a great way to show your child how fun reading can be. Especially if you 'dress up' the reading by dramatizing voice and put some theatrics into the story for some extra fun.

Do they anticipate the newest movies coming out? There's always books, magazine articles, and novelty items promoting the next releases. By reading the book before the movie, (especially if you can get the original story a movie is based upon) will give your children something to compare and contrast -- providing an opportunity for a variety of topics for discussion. Did they like the book or the movie better? Was the directors interpretation of the story line way off, or right on. Did you imagine the characters represented differently? What was the message behind the story? There's a lot of thinking going on if they've been able to know the original story before seeing a movie interpretation.

Another idea is to find out and view many different movie versions of well known classics. By watching each to see the differences and to discuss what they like to dislike about the various interpretations, will give hours of entertainment. What does this have to do with reading? Children benefit from the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills from reading a story and then viewing several different interpretations of it. By having discussion over these interpretations, each member of the family can express differing viewpoints, like or dislike a character or his actions, and provide great themes for discussion over the table while eating or while on traveling.

Books on tape provide another avenue. These can be listened to while traveling or at naptimes and bedtimes. There is higher cognitive brain activity while listening to a story being read by a parent or a tape than when the visual stimulation of TV or movies is going on. The brain tends to work less with audio/visual learning, unless it is broken up with discussion or if there is a reason to "what do you think 'character' will do next?" or "why did that character decide to do 'x', would you do the same? or what would you do differently if it were you?" and so forth. When the brain has something to seek there is more active thinking going on.

Older children can even write their own versions, or go so far as to film their own interpretations of familiar stories. One family we know, takes classic stories and then creates the story using modern characters, such as "Little Red Riding Hood" using the characters from "Star Wars." By having unusual projects such as these engage their minds in complex ways, they won't have time to be bored. While doing these activities throughout the summer will keep their brains engaged in learning and you'll find they'll be ready for school come end of the summer.

Play word games and mad-libs. Some of my fondest summer memories were of times my friends would sit around together filling in the blanks on mad-libs and rolling on the floor belly laughing to the silly stories we'd invented. Creating our own crossword puzzles for each other to solve, or coming up with riddles or clues for a scavenger hunt kept our creative juices flowing.

Make a "Flat Stanley" to go with you through the summer, or to exchange with long-distant family or friends. Taking pictures and journaling what "Stanley" did on his summer vacation will provide writing activities. Just thinking up crazy things that "Stanley" will do, is fun and helps keep the children focused on creative thinking. Later, having a journal of the summer is also nice to look back on later.

Keeping the mind engaged through a variety of ways throughout the break will help keep your children actively learning all summer long. When you're feeding their minds in fun and engaging ways, learning can be ongoing year round and you'll be less likely to hear the common summer complaint, "I'm bored!"

Friday, June 02, 2006

Creating a Reading-Friendly Home

The best way to raise a great reader is to make reading a big part of their lives. Here are some ideas to fill your home with reading.

Books, books, everywhere! Surround yourself with books. Store them in a place that is easy for your children to reach. Visit bookstores and your local library often, and get your children their own library cards. Also, try flea markets and garage sales for inexpensive books.

Build a book nook. It doesn't take much to create a special reading spot--just a cozy chair in a corner or a comfy pillow by a sunny window. Show your own love of reading to your children by curling up with a book of your own too!

Fit reading into everyday life. Ask about your children's favorite books or what they read at school while you're riding on the bus or in the car. When the family is cleaning up after dinner, ask them to read you a story. Then trade--you read aloud while they clear the table or put away silverware.

Follow their lead. Help your children find books that reflect their interests, such as nature, sports or mysteries. And don't worry if your kids are reading comic books or ghost stories -- as long as they're reading!

Give yourself a break. Listening to recorded books on tape or CD is a great substitute when you're really busy, not around or too tired to read. And listening in the car is almost guaranteed to keep your drive calm.