We were thrilled to have author and literacy expert Susan B. Neuman join us on Tuesday for a live Facebook chat on summer reading. It seems like everyone is talking about the importance of keeping kids engaged during the notoriously lazy, hazy months of June, July and August, but Susan offered fresh and unique suggestions for how to keep the reading momentum going. Susan shared with our Scholastic Parents community a few important strategies for encouraging reading growth. The takeaways? Read often, re-read favorites, and read for enjoyment. Here are a few more from Susan’s list.
Re-read kids’ favorite books. Children develop an understanding of words and concepts when they hear these words again and again. Further, they come to believe that they can be capable readers and writers. This is the goal of summer reading–to love it and to understand that it is the gift that keeps on giving!
Simply put, read a lot. Generally it’s hard during the year to read regularly. But this is an ideal time and will help prevent what we call “summer reading loss.”
Choose challenging but achievable books. Make sure the books you read have interesting and new vocabulary that you might want to support.
So pick up on kids’ interests and go with it. For some children enjoyment-and -information go hand-in-hand. It can be interesting and fun to read.
Susan also fielded some incredible questions from parents. Read on and maybe she’ll have addressed a few of your own!
Q: “My oldest reads, picked it up at a very early age…my 5 year old is still having trouble recognizing letters and combos…do you recommend the Tag learning reader? the little pen and special books….”
SN: “Here’s what I’d recommend for your 5-year old. Read something that is really special to him or her. Maybe its an interesting book like Freight Train which children tend to love at this age. At the same time, point out the letters (first letter only) after you read it a second time. The best way to learn how to read is by seeing these letters in context, especially when they are meaningful to the child.”
Q: “Should my children read independently? I usually have them read outloud to me.”
SN: “Great question. It depends on how old they are and the complexity of the text. I generally encourage you to read to them. After all you are the better reading, and the purpose of summer reading is the sheer enjoyment of the reading experience. We want children to hear the language of text, and when they are reading aloud, they emphasize the sounds of the words, but not their meanings as well. I’d recommend continuing to read to them.”
Q: “I am a 5th grade reading teacher, but the mom of preschoolers! I want to know what’s the best approach to get them reading by end of summer?”
SN: I think your most important effort should be to get your child on the road to reading, rather than actually reading text on his or her own. Here’s what I’d recommend: Read lots of great books–classics are important since teachers will be focusing on these wonderful books–read something as special as Charlotte’s Web or Velveteen rabbit, and sometimes you can point to letters and the sounds that they make. But the central purpose of the summer should be to encourage children to hear the vocabulary of books. So read alot for enjoyment and information.
Q: “What are some pre-reading activities I can do with my two year old son??”
SN: ”This is a wonderful time to start children on the road to reading. I recommend books that have a simple, though lyrical structure to them. For example, your child will just love “Brown bear Brown Bear, What do you see?” He or she will begin to read along with you.”
Q: “What can i do this summer to help my 8 year old, who will be entering 4th grade, work on her comprehension? Her fluency is great but she struggles with comprehension.”
SN: “Great question. There are definitely some wonderful strategies that you can do to help your child with comprehension. Generally comprehension difficulties are related to limitations in vocabulary and background knowledge. I’d do the following: Ask your child what he is most interested in learning about: whether its the ocean, or physics it really doesn’t matter. Then go to the library and find some good information books. You might help him learn some of the complex vocabulary that he will certainly find in texts in subjects like science. Some of these information books have great graphics that will help him interpret the meaning of the words.”
Q: “Nowadays some parents try to train their children to read earlier such as since 1 year old with any methods that are recommended for … How about your idea? Is it better to do these ? or just read for them and one day they can read by themselves ?”
SN: ”Very interesting question. We just completed a trial on one of these programs that professed to teach children to read at one-years of age. It turns out that these products are not producing the so-called evidence they claim. Children do not learn to read this early on. Rather, they do learn about the love of books when you read a lot to them. I’d save your time for reading to your child. The love of books will last forever.”
Q: “Susan, My son is 7 and entering 2nd grade in September, he reads and comprehends at a 6th grade level. How do I help him find books that will challenge him but keep it age appropriate? Thanks for your time.”
SN: “Morgan, that’s an important question, and there’s much you can do. Here’s what we find is so useful. Take him to the library, and let him select a book that is interesting to him. Then, say, “Do you think this book is challenging enough for you? ” Let’s look at the pages, and if you know all the words on one page, that means its too easy for you to read. Generally the rule is that we want children to read challenging but achievable books. This means, an average of 5 words out of 100 should be new words for the child. We want to keep your son developing his great vocabulary and comprehension skills, and your modeling of how to select books will help him.”