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Ask the Experts

Eight Ways to Improve Your Child's Reading This Summer

By Kathy Glass, Consulting Educator

Question:

My third-grade son is reading below grade level. I would like to work with him over the summer to improve his reading skills. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer:

Summer is an important time to continue reading so that children do not fall too far behind when the Fall starts. This is especially true for your son since he is reading below grade level.

Additionally, children need to cultivate a love for reading and know that it is not an activity solely reserved for the classroom and a homework assignment. Encouraging summer reading shows children that it is a worthwhile activity all year long for entertainment and to learn more about an interesting topic. Try one or more of the following suggestions:

1. Library.

Check to see if you local public library has an incentive program for children to encourage them to read during the summer months.

Investigate the program for reading expectations and rewards. The librarians probably expect children to read a number of books and then distribute prizes accordingly (e.g., stickers, gift certificates from local businesses, movie tickets, lollipops, etc.). Children usually complete a simple form and turn it into the librarian to enter the program.

Ask for a suggested book list and find those selections that interest your son. Do not be concerned if the books he chooses seem too easy since it is important that he develops a love of reading. This is especially true since he is a struggling reader, and you do not want to discourage any type of reading. You might also want to keep a sticker chart at home to provide incentives for all the books he reads.

2. Tutoring.

Ask your son's current teacher if she has a suggestion for a tutor. One-on-one tutoring can yield significant results if there is a match between tutor and student. By that I mean that the two need to develop a rapport.

Also a seasoned tutor can work with the classroom teacher and pre-assess your son to determine how to target each tutoring session for maximum growth. If your son's teacher does not have a tutor suggestion, then look in your local paper or ask other parents for names of tutors. Also, your local public library might have a tutoring program that matches volunteer tutors with prospective students.

3. Book club.

Sometimes there are local book clubs for children that teachers, tutors or a librarian run during the summer. Ask around at your school and the library for such opportunities. The sessions include a small group of children who are at the same reading level and approximate age. The facilitator assigns a high-interest book each month or twice a month and the children gather to discuss it under the lead of this facilitator. Many book clubs are designed for a parent and child to join together so they can read the book at home and then meet with others to discuss it.

4. Publishers' reading programs.

There are publishers that create summer reading materials for struggling learners. Ask your son's teacher if she is familiar with any of them. You can also search the Internet and find materials from educational companies that you might want to investigate and purchase.

5. Magazine subscription.

Consider subscribing to a magazine that speaks to your son's interests. There are many out there that are kid-friendly, informative and entertaining. The topics are extensive, so go to the local library, school library or Internet and research the various magazine choices before paying for a subscription.

Magazines are a good tool for the struggling reader. There are often many pictures that accompany the text and the topics are interesting. Children feel enticed to read for meaning. Additionally, they feel very grown up when they receive a magazine with their name on it in the mail or read it alongside a parent who might be reading her own magazine.

6. Books on tape.

Find books that have both an audiotape and an accompanying book. Several children's bookstores and toy stores carry such items. Set your child up in a quiet room with headphones and have him follow along in the book with the audiotape. Discuss the book with your child afterwards asking general questions that foster discussion, such as: What was your favorite or least favorite part? Did you like a particular character? Why? If you could write a sequel, what would you write about?

7. Read to your son.

Children love to be read to, and parents usually do so before bed. Go to the library or bookstore with your son and select a stack of books to read any time of day. Find time in a designated place to read regularly. Introduce each book by stating the author, title and what the book will be about. You can even ask your son what he thinks the book is about based on the cover. After reading, discuss each book.

8. Ask your son's teacher.

If you son is a struggling learner, the teacher will undoubtedly have some suggestions. You might print out this list of suggestions and see if your son's teacher prefers some suggestions over others or if she has other recommendations.


Kathy Glass, a former middle school teacher, is an educational consultant and author focusing on curriculum and instruction. She wrote Curriculum Design for Writing Instruction: Creating Standards-Based Lesson Plans and Rubrics (© 2005, Corwin Press) and Curriculum Mapping: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Curriculum Year Overviews. Currently she is writing a book with Carol Tomlinson and other authors of the Parallel Curriculum Model. She can be contacted through her Web site.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

06/8/2009:
"Do you have a recommended summer reading list - elementary girl going into 3rd grade..?"
05/17/2007:
"My 3rd grader, Cayla, reads at a very high level...close to high school level right now. I would also suggest turning on closed captioning on your television. I believe this helped Cayla immensely. Of course, loving books yourself has a great impact on your children. You can rarely find either myself or Cayla without our noses stuck in a book. :o)"
05/17/2007:
"I found, with my 3rd grade son, that he liked books that allowed him to become part of the story. I went to my local Wal-mart and purchased Moby Dick in Children's Literature Classics. He then read Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Treasure Island. These children's classics are condensed versions of the classics. At first, we took turns reading, then he took over and read to me. Very rewarding experience for both of us."
05/11/2007:
"These are some great suggetions.how can i apply these to my 12 year old son.he loves cars,I try to find books on cars.Most of the time the writing is to small and long in car magazines."
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