Wow! What a year 2020 has been thus far, right? Those who are parents and/or guardians of grade school children were propelled into the homeschooling journey. Schools across the nation are closed until the end of the school year, and some states are considering keeping them closed for the fall, are considering keeping distance learning in effect, or are creating new ways for schools to operate. That also puts summer programs at risk of taking place. What does that mean? You’ll still be responsible for your child’s learning experience.
I personally advocate for parents to continue teaching and encouraging their children to learn throughout summer break regardless of what’s happening in the world. Why? It helps bridge the learning gap that exists at the beginning of the next school year. When your child’s teacher introduces new material you want to make sure your child isn’t left behind or struggling to keep up. There are ways to make sure that your child is having endless fun throughout the summer, but still learning. I remember when I was younger (all the way through high school), my mother would create summer work packets for my sister and I. They were always ELA/reading based so I’m sure that’s why I love it til’ this day. When our schools sent home Summer Reading lists, my mother was right on it! Our work and chores were to be complete before playing, watching TV, or going outside. If I was attending a summer camp or had a summer job, my packet needed to be worked on when I came home.
Since reading and writing are my favorite subjects to learn and teach, I thought I would start with a few tips on that subject alone first. I’m no expert, but these are some methods that work for my children and I. Every learning experience differs per household and that is just fine! Find what works best for you and yours. I’ll include other subjects in the future.
So how do you make reading a little fun? There are several ways to incorporate some fun into reading time, but here are my top 10 go-to’s.
Read aloud together-Children participate in reading aloud all the time in school. When they are preschool-aged it looks more like the teacher reading at circle time. As they grow older, children take turns reading aloud. This still takes place in middle and high school as well. The teacher will call on students to read instructions, syllabi, and paragraphs in reading materials or books. Keep that same energy at home! Reading aloud allows you to hear how your child reads. Is there a flow? How many words per page are they struggling with? Are they pausing at commas and stopping at periods? These reading sessions are great for the parent and child alone, siblings and parents, or the whole family. It can even turn into a family book club. Older children may enjoy knowing that they aren’t the only ones in the house tasked with reading. They will feel supported.
Use an accent or favorite character voice- This goes along with reading aloud. As the adult, I would start it off in order to set the tone. I loveeee using an accent when reading with my daughters. I always tell my 8-year-old to become the characters in the book she’s reading. How do they sound? Where are they from? Are they short or tall? Are the filled with excitement, or sadness? Are they mean or timid? I want to hear that when she’s reading. Of course you don’t want to make fun of another culture, however; if the story is based in a place like Texas or Louisianna there are distinct accents associated with those states! Using an accent, a favorite character voice, or even mimicking a loved one’s voice will have your child saying, “Ok! My turn!” I introduced my daughter to Harry Potter books a few months ago. When she would read aloud I reminded her to become the characters. Lo and behold, I had a mini wizard from Hogwartz sitting beside me. LOL
Act it out- Bring entertainment into the home! After your child reads a chapter or two, put on a play. You can choose to stick with the chapters that were just read or start from the beginning of the book until the last chapter read. This is basically putting a book report into motion! Have them go around the house and grab some things to create the setting of the book, make a mini stage, and make a costume (bonus: arts and crafts). If you have them, grab some wigs, makeup, and more. You can leave it as a one-man/woman show, or you can get the whole family involved. This is a fun way to get your kid moving. It gives them something to look forward to at the end of their reading. It forces them to actually pay attention to, and comprehend what they are reading rather than just reading words on a page. Afterward, you can give your critiques. If you feel like they missed a major part of the main idea, you can mention “I loved what you did here! Wow. What an amazing job! I remember there being a part of the story where ______ learned _____ no longer wanted to be friends. I didn’t see that in your show. Is there a reason why you didn’t include it in the play?” If your child doesn’t favor putting on a show, try making them a broadcast news journalist. They can “report” the news from the book and provide weekly or daily updates. If they are interested in music, they can make a song (rap or sing) about it.
Read in silence together– So maybe your child doesn’t like all the extra stuff, and they’d rather just read independently. That’s just fine. You can still take the experience up a notch by you each reading your individual books in the same room, and then discuss them. It’s very simple. You’d simply take turns telling each other what is happening in your book so far and do a little reading comprehension aloud. For example, sharing how you relate or don’t relate to the main character and story. What do you think will happen in the following chapters? What would your alternate ending to the book be?
Scavenger Hunt- Time for a mini scavenger hunt! These are great for younger children and older children. The great thing about scavenger hunts is that you don’t have to have a lot of space in order to have one. It can be done indoors or outdoors, in an apartment or a house. Find specific objects from the book in your house and scatter them wherever the scavenger hunt will take place. If it’s a hunt with older kids you don’t even have to gather the items. Leave them where they are and have your child find them and bring them back to you. Set a timer to bring the drama and excitement. We all know kids love games and small competitions. There’s nothing wrong including a prize or incentive at the end.
Arts and craft– The things you can do with arts and crafts are endless. Craft or create what the book was about in any way that your child finds fun. Color worksheets that feature items from the story, draw, sew, build, and more. If you’ve taken care of the writing for the day, doing an arts and craft book report is a fun and creative alternative. If your child needs more writing work, have them to write out their book report first, and then use that as their blueprint for their artwork.
Easy. Just Right. Hard– Oftentimes, reading isn’t fun to children because they aren’t reading the right books. Maybe they’re bored because the book is too easy (older children), or maybe the books they find fun are too easy for them (younger children). You may even find that your child dislikes reading and quits easily. With your young child, let them read an easy book first. It gets them excited for reading time and builds their confidence. They’ll most likely know the book by heart and make little to no mistakes. For all ages, find books of their interests that are just right for their reading level. For example, my daughter is 8 and still loves picture books, however, her reading level is that of an 8th grader. So I let her choose some graphic novels or picture books as her easy book to read, and then choose just-right books that still meet her needs. She loves unicorns and mystical/magical worlds and characters, so Harry Potter and books like them are right up her alley. I also choose some books that I’d like her to read as well that aren’t in the same genre as those. Lastly, you want to challenge your reader as well. Choosing a book that is a little more difficult isn’t a bad thing. It allows you to gauge their reading progress and gives you words to work on with them. To make it a little easier on them, let them help you choose some of the difficult books. If it peaks their interest, it may make them more interested in reading it regardless of the difficulty. Remember, it’s important not to focus on the harder books because it can discourage them. We often make the mistake of giving our children nothing but difficult work. That is the easiest way to make your child lose confidence in themselves. You have to balance the reading material out by giving them a challenge, but not taking it overboard.
Create a reading nook– Create a space that is specifically for your child that encourages reading and comfort. Also, let them choose the books they’d like in their nook in order to encourage independent learning. When reading together, you can let them select their favorite choice from a list of books you have chosen that is “just right” for their reading level.
Combine reading with another subject– When homeschooling, I often combine my daughter’s reading lessons with other subjects. She absolutely loves science so we’ll read articles, stories, and more on whatever we’re learning then. I use this method for all subjects! Including, but not limited to music, health, history, and geography.
Switch up the reading format/platform– It’s easy for human beings, not just children, to become bored with routine. Try audiobooks, kindle, or other downloadable books, online stories, and reading games through learning sites. This gives you a little break also. Young children can watch/listen to stories on many websites, but you’ll never go wrong with YouTube. Just be sure to check the quality of the video and videos to follow to make sure that you’re protecting your child’s innocence from anything inappropriate that could pop up.
These methods are perfect for new homeschooling parents, experienced homeschooling parents, and distance learning parents. We tend to believe that our children’s learning only takes place inside of school walls and that is far from the truth. Even when schools open back up and you return to work, do your best to incorporate at least one of these methods into your weekly schedule. Reading together or having your child read independently should take place daily and be no less than 20 mins, but can be as long as you and your child desire. You can split the time up into increments if 20 minutes is too long for a sitting. When you’ve chosen one day of the week to add on the fun activities listed above, the entire session should last no longer than an hour. However, if the fun is too good to end, keep going until you’ve passed out!
Happy parenting and teaching!