At some point during the summer, many parents worry about their children losing some of the knowledge they gained during the school year or worse - falling behind. With this in mind, we have asked our in-house reading and college prep experts to share a few tips on how to keep children (of all ages) moving forward.
Students of All Ages:
Betsy Swan, Librarian for Westtown’s Upper & Middle Schools reminds us of the importance of reading. Swan shares that some of the most empowering advice we can give children is that – with the exception of books assigned for classes – if you don’t like a book, you don’t have to finish it. Kids will read more independently and happily when they find a book they want to read, so encourage them to sample.
That said, some kids don’t like the long format of a book. Is this really an argument you need to have with your child? Not as often as you might think! Developing reading fluency has more to do with practicing the act of reading (this is where developing the physical skill of reading ties in) and expanding the building blocks of reading comprehension (like building vocabulary and word recognition). We find words in all sorts of formats other than books: try magazines, the newspaper, even Wikipedia. The plethora of magazines available – from Ladybug (aimed at 3 to 6 year olds) to Kids Discover to Archaeology Today and Sports Illustrated– means there is something to interest almost every reader.
Reading is wonderful when it is all-consuming and we can tuck ourselves into a book to disappear for a day, but most days we won’t have time or inclination for that. See what 15 minutes can do for your kids – and for you. Read Swan’s full blog post here.
Elementary Age Students:
Westtown’s Lower School Library Media Specialist, Lynn Clements, reminds us that research shows that leisure reading is the best predictor of comprehension, vocabulary, and reading speed. Regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic level, or previous achievement, children who read four or more books over the summer perform better on reading-comprehension tests in the fall than their peers who read one or no books over the summer.
- Be a role model - make sure your kids see you reading for pleasure on vacation, in the evenings at home, and throughout the day.
- When you travel, let your children gather travel brochures, read menus, and maps (or Google directions), and listen to audiobooks in the car or on the plane.
- Spend a few hours browsing together at a local book store, or go to your local public library. An overwhelming 92% of kids say they are more likely to finish a book they picked out themselves, so offer them lots of reading choices.
It is also important to keep those writing skills sharp over the summer months:
- Give children“real-life” reading/writing activities such as writing grocery lists, weekly schedules, chore lists, or postcards.
- Set up a writing center stocked with colored markers and pencils, post-its, paper for writing and drawing, and encourage them to make comic books, flip books, write letters, or keep a summer diary.
- Download apps such as Puppet Pals, Buncee, Lego Movie Maker, and Tellagami, that are for easy for elementary students to use for content creation, while strengthening writing and reading skills. Read full blog post here.
High School Students:
Jessica Smith, Westtown’s Director of College Counseling reminds us that summer is a time for students to relax, enjoy, and rejuvenate but also an important time for your teen to stay on track with their college prep. Here are a few simple reminders.
- What should your teen do over the summer? We love to see students work, travel, babysit, explore hobbies, play or condition for your sport, go to camp, start a small business or volunteer. Please note, you do not need to spend a lot of money on special pre-college programs. Colleges know that not all students can afford them, so they’re not very meaningful in a college application. If interested, it’s fine to take high school or local college classes for credit, but it’s not a must. Encourage students to do what they love or need to do. It is all part of learning more and becoming an adult. Definitely make sure they have some down time, and spend lots of time having fun, but also keep busy with a project, job, class, or hobby - something. Let them pick!
- What should your teen NOT do this summer? They should NOT stress out about college or worry about their grades. They will be done for this year and not yet started for next; they do not need to do endless test prep. In any case, it shouldn’t consume their summer. They do not need to visit every Ivy League college, or start working on their college essay. If they are not ready for college visits yet, that's fine. If they want to visit colleges, great. Make sure they are looking at a wide range of places, not just the most selective. If you can't travel far, pick out two different colleges in your area and look at them. Encourage them to keep an open mind and look at big and small, city and country, near and far.
- What's coming next? Our basic message to students is: work hard, learn a lot, get involved in a variety of activities, enjoy high school, and take on leadership roles as you grow. Consult with your college or guidance counselor when questions arise. Have your child work with their counselor to develop a tentative list of colleges to research. Read more tips from Smith here.
No matter what age child you have, there are themes in all of this advice and they are good reminders for kids of ANY age: read, follow your passion, be curious, and HAVE FUN!