By Valle Dwight
If your child has a reading disability, she may consider summer a time to leave her books on the shelf and take a break. And, after a school year full of reading drills and other interventions, who can blame her? She's entitled to some down time, and a chance to pursue her passions – swimming lessons at the pool, for example, or a week at a wilderness camp – but don't forget that kids with reading disabilities can lose significant ground over the summer.
In order to build reading skills, children with learning disabilities require lots of repetition and “cycling back” (that is, reviewing information they've already been taught) says Robert Kahn, head of elementary and middle school at the highly respected Landmark School near Boston, which focuses on language-based learning disabilities. Significant breaks from the learning routine erode reading skills; the long summer vacation can set kids with reading issues back as much as two to three months, according to Kahn. “The kids who have regular exposure to reading over the summer are better off,” he says.
You can help combat this summer slide by engaging your child in reading activities that are both entertaining and instructive. These activities focus on the three areas that are most challenging for kids with reading disabilities -- language, fluency and comprehension -- and can be adapted for a range of ages and skill levels.
Building a strong vocabulary, including a wide variety of descriptive words, will help your child improve her reading skills as she encounters increasingly complex texts. You can play these simple games on your summer road trip or when you're hanging at home.
Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately and smoothly. The absolute best way to improve fluency is to read aloud with your child, says Landmark School's Robert Kahn. "That one to one time is the key." When your child reads aloud to you, she gets reading practice, and when you read aloud to her, you're modeling fluency. That's not all: the shared experience helps your child create positive associations with reading.
Some children have little trouble with the mechanics of reading, but struggle to identify key points in a story and understand its basic themes. Posing questions and helping your child engage more deeply with what she's reading will help sharpen her comprehension skills.
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