Oh good lord. Whatever happened to “No more pencils! No more books!”?  Even before school let out, notices were being sent home about making sure we “prevent the summer slide” and encouraging us to keep our kids reading this summer.  Our school district even offers summer learning “camps” so your child doesn’t lose his or her edge.  Smells like “summer school” to me!

In case you’re not familiar with the term “summer slide,” it describes what happens when a young mind sits idle for three months.  Children who don’t read over the summer months can lose two months of reading achievement.  That’s a big deal. My recent Kindergarten graduate only learned to read two months ago.  A two-month set back would put her back to zero by the fall.  And it’s a cumulative loss.  If she didn’t read during any summer from now until 6th grade, she’d be 2 years behind her peers.  Isn’t that horrible? I better get on my teacher suit and start planning lessons.  School’s about to be in session, y’all.

Call me crazy but I say HELL to the NO to that.  Sure, I want my child to keep reading and learning.  I want her to enjoy all the learning gains she had during her first year of public school.  I was really impressed with how much she learned this year.  I get it that the brain needs activity and exercise to keep it fit, just like your muscles do.  You wouldn’t train for and then run a 5K road race on the last day in June and then try to run a marathon on September 1st without training in between, right?  But I’m not about to forget that summer is time for fun.  It’s sprinkler time.  Play in the sand time.  Ride your bike time.  Stay up late and eat popsicles time.  Not sit inside and practice writing your letters time.

No time for ABCs! Photo: K. Stevenson

No time for ABCs!
Photo: K. Stevenson

So what’s a mom to do?  How can I keep my child learning and engaged and not sliding during our busy summer of fun?  Find a way to keep it fun even if you have to be sneaky about it!  Here are a few ideas:

  • Find a fun workbook that’s age appropriate.  Head to your local bookstore and check out their selection of grade level workbooks.  Before you cringe and say “I thought she said keep it fun?!” hear me out.  The workbooks that are out there now are not the ones that I remember as a kid.  The one I picked has coloring and rhyming and counting songs in it.  I’m not out to finish the whole thing, but I’ll grab and go as I need to.  There’s bound to be a rainy day or two and these books are perfect.  They also keep me, a non-teacher, at the right level for my daughter’s age.
  • Incorporate art!  My daughter loves to tell stories.  She can even write out a few sentences to tell a real whopper.  I found a storytelling notebook with space on each page to draw a picture and then lines below to write your story.  Another version that I’m going to try is to print out famous works of art and glue them to the pages.  Then she can look at the painting and write a story about it.  She gets to use her imagination and her love of drawing, and I know she’s keeping that brain engaged!
  • Start a summer reading bucket list.  Get an actual bucket.  Write book topics/genres on clothes pins.  Pin them to the edge of the bucket.  As your child reads a book from the pin, drop it in the bucket.  Celebrate when the bucket is full of clothes pins! (Thanks to my friend Erin for the inspiration for this idea!)  Another version of this was a mystery board that had the types of books in sealed envelopes taped to a board.  Each day you pick an envelope and you never know what kind of book you’re going to choose!  Here are some ideas for types of books to read:

    Photo source: http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/category/summer-reading

    Photo source: http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/category/summer-reading

  • Read EVERYTHING!  That’s right, it’s that simple.  Words are all around us.  You probably don’t notice them, but your emerging reader does.  Labels on boxes, signs on the road, words are everywhere.  If your child isn’t pointing them out, start noticing for her.  “Hey, look a plane pulling a sign behind it!  What does it say?”
  • Count EVERYTHING!  Yep, simple again.  Count stars.  Count shells.  Count fireworks.  Count kernels in your ear of corn.  Count bug bites.  Sneak in some math if you’re feeling cheeky.  “If I have 2 scoops of ice cream and Daddy has 1, how many scoops do we have?  Now how many are left if Mommy eats a scoop?”  Just don’t count how many days until school starts.  At least not in front of the kids.

These are just a few ideas that I thought of.  Part of our year-round routine is bedtime stories and library trips.  Those are definitely continuing this summer.  I’ll hold on to my bedtime cuddle time with my daughter until she’s ready to kick me out.  If you don’t do this already, I highly encourage it.  Just make sure to wash off any sandy feet before you get in on that snuggle book time!  Our library also has an incentive-based summer reading program in partnership with the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge called “Fizz! Boom! Read!” The idea is to read and log the books you’ve read and you get prizes! We’re signed up and already qualified for a prize!  Fun!

What fun summer reading and learning ideas have you tried?  I’d love to hear about them!  Have a great summer and keep learning!

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