Reading Time: 4 minutes
Willow Hewitt advises how to get the most out of reading with your little ones this summer
Summer is here and kids are excited about several long weeks without school. For parents, too, it’s great to get a break from the daily chore of helping with homework. Summer is a fantastic chance to relax, reconnect, and really have fun as a family.
But to kids these days, fun means spending hours playing Hungry Shark World or zoning out with Peppa Pig. As exciting as games and cartoons can be, too much of anything isn’t great for us. And a whole summer of relaxation will mean September brings a real shock to the system.
A great activity that’s fun and relaxing but also engages the brain is reading. It opens up new worlds and expands your little ones’ minds as they grow. Here are some tips on getting the most out of reading with your children this summer, as well as advice on how to encourage those who don’t love reading to get involved.
Summer is a great time to make real improvement in your child’s reading. Parents can often feel frustrated that after hours spent reading books together, their child still can’t read. Try some of these ideas to help your reading time foster better results.
Modelled Blending – for children who are just getting started with phonics, help them understand how the letter sounds blend together by sounding out simple words in the books you read: “Look at the cuh-ah-tuh, cat, on the muh-ah-tuh, mat.” Point to the letters as you blend the sounds to make it even clearer.
Sight Word Games – recognising which words don’t follow phonics rules makes reading go faster and smoother. Find some lists of age-appropriate sight words and turn learning these into a game. Flashcards are a great tool for all sorts of fun activities – run and touch them, flip them over to match pairs, hide them around the house, or copy them out with a finger traced through sand. Have fun with these small, simple words and see reading speed increase.
Interactive Reading – reading is about much more than just sounds on a page! Engage your child with context clues and story structure basics to help them understand what they’re reading. You can do this by talking about the pictures on the page before you read it, predicting what will come next in the story, and then at the end of the book, summarising the whole thing. Engaged readers are better readers!
Repetition – this is the key to learning everything at this age. Use the ‘me-we-you’ method to guide your child to read their favourite books independently. First, just the parent reads, and then parent and child together. Then, when the child is confident enough, they can start to read words and sentences on their own. Even though this seems more like memorisation than reading to adults, this is a vital tool to help little ones match the marks on the page to the sounds in their mouth.
Reading Schemes – kids love goals, especially when you mark off their achievements with stickers. Spend the summer working through a series of books, with a goal to reach the end by September. The Oxford Reading Tree series is a favourite with all young kids and offers a great range of levels for them to work through. You can also join in with the Hong Kong Public Libraries’ Reading Programme, and earn a certificate if you meet your reading target by September.
For Older Kids
With the benefit of unstructured time and without the pressure of school assignments, summer can be the perfect time for even the most reluctant reader to develop a passion for books. Make sure to be encouraging about whatever your child chooses to read. A whole summer of obsessing over Captain Underpants is a great introduction to the love of reading, so try to keep laughing at jokes about the Turbo Toilet 2000 and his army of talking toilets for as long as you can.
For enthusiastic readers, books are a great tool to expand vocabularies and keep their learning going all summer long! Check out the ideas below for some creative ways to challenge and excite your young reader.
Listen Along – for those who don’t even want to crack the spine of a book, audiobooks are a great first step. On sites like Audible, you can even listen to samples of stories to help you pick. Once your child gets into the story, try following along with the physical book while you listen, and then move on to alternating chapters between listening and reading. Find something they love, and your little one will race ahead on their own.
Make a Graphic Novel – turn a book into a graphic novel by drawing out the panels for key scenes. This is a great way to bring a book to life. It’s also the perfect tool for practising summarising skills by choosing which details to include in the pictures and dialogue. Your child can even tackle a challenging new book using this technique and work on it bit by bit throughout the holiday.
World-Building – create the map of a book’s setting for another fun way to make reading interactive. Your child can even plot out the journey of the characters across the map while they read! This works especially well with fantasy stories like The Hobbit or Percy Jackson, where children can practise finding details in what they read to hone their comprehension skills.
Act It Out – get a group of your kid’s friends to read the same book and then turn key scenes into short plays. This is an excellent way to get children thinking about the deeper layers of a story, such as the characters’ feelings and the motivations behind their actions. These deeper reading skills are the key to long term literature success.
Online Resources – if your child is itching to have some computer time, why not find something for them that links back to a book? Lots of popular authors and series have websites which are packed full of great resources. Check out the fun games on the Diary of a Wimpy Kid site, or the fantastic quizzes, crafts and more on Roald Dahl’s official page.
Hong Kong Public Libraries www.hkpl.gov.hk/index.html
Oxford Reading Tree www.oxfordowl.co.uk
Willow Hewitt is the Head of English at the Tsim Sha Tsui branch of i-Learner Education Centre. She has been teaching in Hong Kong for several years, and has a highly experienced international teaching team who love to share their knowledge and resources with parents whenever they can. www.i-learner.edu.hk