How can Blue Valley families support young readers during the summer?
Summer is a time for kids to relax, gather with friends, go on trips, explore the world and spend time tapping into what interests them. It can also be a time for kids to work on skills they learned during the school year so that when August returns, they are prepared for school and ready to take on the year.
While learning during the summer sounds like a task that might quickly lose kids’ interest, it doesn’t have to be. Learning, specifically reading, is a great summer activity that can be fun and beneficial to the whole family.
Research shows skills that aren't utilized tend to get rusty.
Blue Valley knows young readers are meant to learn thousands of words per year. That is an enormous task. So, it is important for students to build their vocabulary and background knowledge both inside and outside of the classroom.
“A lot of vocabulary building for young learners is environmental, conversational, hearing words through discussions or through reading that helps to build that background knowledge and vocabulary,” said Jennifer Luzenske, Blue Valley’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction. “That absolutely can take place over the summer, and it doesn’t have to look like working on school.”
Learning and working on essential skills for reading can be achieved by simple at-home activities such as working in the garden or preparing a grocery list. Visiting the zoo or a museum are great places for kids to develop more of the skills needed for reading success, vocabulary, background knowledge and practice listening and speaking.
Kids can focus on various reading elements such as phonological awareness by playing rhyming games, counting the words heard in a sentence or naming words that begin with a particular sound.
Whether it’s planning a trip to a baseball game and researching the opposing team or writing a thank-you note after a playdate, families can support their young readers and writers by tapping into their kids’ interests and supplying an authentic context for their learning.
Summer slide, the tendency for students to lose some achievement gains they made during the previous school year, can be avoided by repetition and practice of skills during the summer. It will help kids retain those foundational pieces of reading.
“Reading to kids and with kids at any age is such a valuable activity because the adult is modeling, spending quality time with their kids and the discussions which can stem from that are so helpful,” Luzenske said.
While reading with kids, families can track the text with their finger, talk about what was read and ask questions that encourage children to make inferences. Giving kids the chance to choose the book is vital, and rereading books is beneficial.
Summer reading gives parents an idea of how their child is progressing as a reader along with how and what they like to read.
“Language is so important,” Luzenske said. ”All kids, every year, should be growing in background knowledge, expanding their interests and building vocabulary. All of that is something family can have a hand in over the summer. It doesn’t have to look like flashcards and worksheets.”
Blue Valley Schools incorporates the science of reading, a thorough research body articulating how the brain learns to read and what it does as a person reads, to teach students literacy.
Working on the skills throughout the summer that students learn in the classroom helps develop attention spans and builds language, vocabulary, background knowledge and comprehension skills.
The science of reading expands upon the idea that reading isn’t just a visual concept that focuses on seeing and memorizing letters. Instead, reading is about understanding the phonological base of sounds.
“The brain needs to have both the sounds and symbol, as well as the meaning mapped or imprinted for rapid, automatic recall,” Luzenske said. “That’s why we’re moving away from focusing on memorizing sight words and focusing on high-frequency words that are decodable or at least partially decodable.”
Reading for 20 minutes a day is recommended — even during the summer — and is proven to immensely impact a child’s ability to retain and continue developing their reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.
Whether it’s playing a game while riding in the car, listening to an audiobook, reading a book as a family, playing Scrabble or researching a new topic, all avenues will provide many benefits to students as they prepare for the upcoming school year.
“Summer gives even our youngest learners a chance, with support, to investigate, learn or read about areas of interest they may not have had an opportunity to explore in school,” Luzenske said. “Having choice in what you do is one of the big factors in helping kids love to read.”
Some resources that encourage reading at no cost are, Epic, an online library utilized by many Blue Valley teachers during the school year, is a great resource for families too. Those who sign up for a free account will have access to one book per day.
Also, the Johnson County Public Library’s summer reading program, “Oceans of Possibilities,” runs through July 29, 2022.