Put together lively learning and radical reading this summer

two elementary age boys running out of school with backpacks on and in shorts and tee shirts at the end of the school year excited about summer break

It’s time to celebrate a school year finished and plan for a summer sizzling with build-on-it possibilities.

Pull out the sandals, floaties, and books
a collage of five different photos of young kids reading over the summer with four neon words saying READ spread across the middle of the image

Ask kids what they want to do over the summer, and “read a lot” will probably not be at the top of most of their lists. Sure, some littles have discovered the joy and adventure of the written word. But even kids who go “yawn, yawn” upon hearing the words “book” or “reading” can usually be enticed to read. Like dropping spinach into a fruit smoothie, reading can become much yummier as part of something else.

One Merriam Webster definition of radical is “very different from usual or traditional,” and breaking a child’s perception of reading as a chore or school task is important. Making reading relevant and interactive goes a long way.

From The Kindergarten Connection in “10 Ways to Encourage Summer Reading,” one idea is to “tie reading in with summer activities.” For example, “A book about zoo animals will be more interesting after a day at the zoo.” They add, “Likewise, reading about trucks while on a family road trip may engage your child more than it would otherwise.”

little girl looking through the glass window of a zoo enclosure of lions with a insert of nonfiction Big Cats digital book on Anywhere Teacher displayed in the left corner of the photo

They also urge families to “look for reading everywhere” and not all just limited to books. Get kids reading, among other things, instructions for games and activities before playing, packaging labels, kids’ menus at restaurants, and maps and brochures.

Helping kids “pursue their interests” is another recommended strategy. They suggest brainstorming with kids some topics they want to learn more about. “Then look for non-fiction books about that subject,” including some they can read on their own as well as others that will need your help. Mixing in related activities and videos on the subject can further stoke the fire.

Back in 2021, the Chicagoland Lutheran Education Foundation posted "Keep Kids Learning This Summer," and put it this way: “Fuel your kids’ passions. Whether they’re into astronomy, U.S. presidents, music, horses, magic, gymnastics, or science, find age-appropriate ways to feed their interests with books (fiction and non-fiction)” as well as other media and activities to keep kids “accidentally” learning all summer.

Summer reading stems learning loss
three kids on a beach laying in the sand with sunglasses on and sun hats reading books

Reading at any time, in any season, has huge benefits, but summertime “bridges” two school years.

Rachel Ehmke, writing for the Child Mind Institute in “How to Keep Kids Reading This Summer” notes that “Summer reading doesn’t just keep kids from losing the skills they learned at school. It also helps them build confidence and a love of reading."

She notes that “Summer reading books shouldn’t be so easy that they are boring, but they also shouldn’t be so challenging that they frustrate a child.”

When younger kids are tackling a challenging book, the article notes that Matthew Cruger, Ph.D., director of the Institute’s Learning and Development Center, “suggests that parents go through a storybook first to make flashcards with vocabulary words from the story. That way kids can learn the words ahead of time.” Combined with grouping the cards into “simple phrases and sentences” and practicing the words, the vocabulary will be in place, and reading should be much easier.

Ehmke urges parents to discuss what a child is reading on their own. She writes, “Kids will appreciate the interest, and it doubles as a way to monitor comprehension.” The article urges parents to “Talk about the characters and the problems they are facing, and encourage your child to ask questions and reread tough parts with you.”

Asian mom and young daughter laying on the floor very happily reading a book together

The Chicagoland Lutheran Education Foundation post emphasizes the idea to “Get kids reading any way you can.” They say, “And don’t overlook the value of listening to audiobooks,” citing Denise Johnson, Ed.D., a professor of reading education at the College of William & Mary, “in Reading Online, a publication from the International Reading Association.” According to the Chicagoland post, Johnson writes that audiobooks “can introduce kids to book above their reading level” and can “teach critical listening and introduce new vocabulary among other benefits.”

Online learning app combines strategies

School Zone’s Anywhere Teacher learning app for ages 2-8, has dozens of fiction and non-fiction books, most of them with a Read to Me option to hear the book and follow along and an I Can Read option for independent practice. Many have questions at the end to test comprehension.

Non-fiction titles include All About Bears, Adventurous Otters, Awesome Owls, Busy Beavers, Big Cats, and Fantastic Frogs. Packed with colorful pictures and sprinkled with fun facts, young readers will want to go through them again and again. 

boy looking through the window of a zoo enclosure at an otter with an insert of a Adventurous Otters nonfiction book from Anywhere Teacher displayed in the right bottom corner of the photo

The app even has a series of videos for learning about books and how to read them.

For a different kind of read, sit back, buckle up, and get ready for a state-by-state tour of the United States. Whether taking a long car trip or looking for a fact-filled escape from the four walls of home, the Travel the Great States workbook from the Activity Zone® series, is a ticket to big learning. Workbooks in the series are packed with crosswords, games, word searches, codes, and more that will motivate kids’ exploration of U.S. history and geography as they also improve language fluency.

image of Travel the Great States workbook by School Zone and three inside pages with an illustration of a car traveling down a road on the far right of the product images

Pull out the books this summer, and letter by letter, word by word, get kids reading better and their voices, interests, and ideas heard! 

two young girls and a boy laying on a rug enjoying reading a book together