Friday, June 09, 2006

Stop the summer reading slide!

An article in Instructor magazine by Megan Lundstrom suggests that children who don't read regularly over their summer break fall behind about three months in their reading achievement. Ouch! That kind of slide doesn't belong on any playground, friends! Here are a few handy-dandy hints for a slide-free summer. Please feel free to post your own ideas in the comments section below!

Find a special place.
We give a lot of thought to
what children read, but less concern about where they read. This is a very important consideration when the Siren's song of the summer sidewalk/park/beach beckons. Who wants to sit still when the sun is shining? To keep reading in the running for a summer recreation choice, help children pick and design a special spot, a clubhouse of sorts where they can retreat. How about redecorating an old refrigerator or piano box? Clear out a corner of a closet? Build a backyard tipi? You can also purchase lovely temporary reading tents at Hearthsong. Make sure the fairies leave special reading gifts in these spaces all summer long.

These photos were sent in by teacher Lori Napoli. More about her below!

Literary field trips.
Summer is a time for adventure! Tie reading into your vacation plans, or build them around favorite books. Visiting New York City? How about A Cricket in Times Square? Shipping off to rural relatives? Pack Love, Ruby Lavender by Deborah Wiles. And who would venture into the wild west without Laura Ingalls Wilder? Even if your summer plans keep you closer to home, you can preface a visit to the zoo with (what else?) Aliki's My Visit to the Zoo by Aliki; dinner out calls for a side dish of Big Jimmy's Kum Kau Chinese Take Out by Ted Lewin; all you need for the beach is All You Need for a Beach, by Alice Schertle...honestly, there isn't a thing you can set out to do or a place that you can go that doesn't have a book tie-in waiting in the wings. For the perfect match between destination and reading inspiration, use the "Location, Location, Location" section of How to Get Your Child to Love Reading, or visit the "Trip Around the World" link for more reading tour guides.

Hit a Home Run with Punch Cards.
If your young readers have a sporty streak, motivate them by drawing a baseball diamond on an index card, and hole-punching a base with every book that they read. How long does it take them to make it to home plate? Does a novel in a week count as a grand slam? What's their summer reading average?
Featured covers:
PLAY BALL! by Jorge Posada and Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Raul Colon (Simon and Schuster)and
JUST LIKE JOSH GIBSON by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Beth Peck (Simon and Schuster).

Bookworms Blossom into Social Butterflies.
Let's end the bookworm stigma by making the most of social summertime fun: have a beach-blanket read-aloud , reading sleepovers, a reading by campfire, a reading-based cooking club where you choose recipes based on books
(Ohhh, yum yum, did I mention Jane Yolen's A Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook for Young Readers And Eaters is just out?). I don't mean to be pushy, but again, supporting titles and activities for literary par-tays may be found in excess in the "Beaucoup de Book Coups" section of How to Get Your Child to Love Reading.The more that children can make the positive association bewteen reading and time spent with friends, the more likely they are going to want to do it.

A Poem a Day Keeps the Summer Slide Away.
Start with a reading of Randall Jarrell's The Bat Poet, just to get everybody looking at poems as the presents they really are. Then, tuck a poem a day into a child's lunch, or tuck it under a pillow to be discovered. A nice thing to do if you are a grandparent or relative who lives across the miles from a special young person is to mail a poem a day. There are so many rich anthologies and collections available from which to choose! Plan a candlelight end-of-summer recitation with friends and family.

Freedom of Choice.
All school year long, people have likely been telling these poor kids what to read. Buzz kill! Let them loose in the library and bookstore, and reserve judgement. I know, I know, those awful television-show knock-offs and drecky things with drooly mutants or books with girls' navels on the cover that you want to hold from the corner by two fingers, oh sweet mother...but do the best that you can. Kids have to experience it all in order to develop criteria (which they usually do very quickly once they have to spend their own money). You can also send kids to the PlanetEsme archives and let them create wishlists of more quality stuff to try to find and read over these summer months. Kids generally have great taste when great choices are offered to them.

Please note, there are two recent reissues that are easy choices for reluctant readers: for one, The Sundance company has reintroduced and updated the CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE series that sold over 150 million copies when it was first introduced, one of the most popular to pre-date Harry Potter. Though Sundance is marketing them with a classroom spin, regular consumers can choose to go a) buy the educator's set or b)special order them from your local bookseller. But I almost had a coronary when I discovered the CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED JUNIOR comic books from back in the day were being faithfully reissued out of a company in Canada. Yes, Classics! Illustrated! Junior! You know, those ones you had (or your mother had) that are part of the reason you are literate today? Though the production quality is not primo, the nostalgia factor pulls rank. These comics remain a fun and painless way for kids to get to know some of the stories that are alluded to all throughout about collect 'em all!
For Pete's Sake, Don't Overschedule.
That's really marvelous that little Jennie-Jamie-Joey is so good at karate-soccer-ballet-trumpet and has more playdates than Paris Hilton, but knowing how to make choices with free time is also a skill. A little down-time allows children the chance to read and relax! If you want to schedule something regularly, make it a trip to the library or your local bookseller.

Movie on Down to the Library.
Tie in titles to match the summer's on-screen blockbusters. Obvious case in point: the upcoming Pirates of the Carribean sequel screams for reading supplements. Try the handsome volume PIRATES
by John Matthews (Atheneum), our book of the day. This richly detailed delight catches a young reader's eye right away with the bejeweled blood-red winking of the skull on the cover, and inside is tucked away with just as many treasures: types of pirate flags, a guide to pirate slang, recruitement advertisements, a gallery of the most notorious, and, of course, a treasure map. Plenty to pore over, this is a good pick for anyone left on a deserted island awaiting rescue, or just perfect to while away the summer days in a world of imagination. (8 & up)

On the same theme we have Piratology by Captain Lubber (
nom de plume, I presume), Carolyn Crimi's hilarious Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies (can you find the children's lit insider joke on one of the pirate's tattoos?), Kathryn Lasky's Pirate Bob, Mem Fox's
Tough Boris, Tom Lichtenheld's Everything I Know About Pirates, Melinda Long and David Shannon's How I Became a Pirate, and the list goes on and on. But movie-to-book connections are not limited to swashbuckling fare! See "Cinema Club" in How to Get Your Child to Love Reading or on-line to plan an entire summer reading film festival...and you'll be using that library card as often as that Blockbuster card or Netflix membership!

Also of interest:
The photos of homemade reading tipis above were sent in by Lori Napoli, an amazing third grade teacher in Orland Park, IL who has keep me updated via the internet with the inspired literature-based and confidence-building learning that goes on in her classroom. She sent the following e-mail:

When my kids are the "student/star of the week" they get a chance to be "bombed" with compliments. Their classmates write something nice about them on a post-it note and then tape on them.....hence our "Third Grade's the Bomb" bulletin board in the classroom. They get to visit other teachers and the principal....of course and once they're finished they come back to the room and I take their picture. I tape it on some construction paper and glue the compliments all around it and hang it up on our board until the end of the year when they get to take it home...they love it and that's what matters. Anyway, last year they wanted to bomb me (see picture).

Have a fabulous summer...This is my fourth day off and I'm still thinking about school...what's wrong with me? :o)

What's wrong with you should only be wrong with every teacher, Miss Napoli! I happened to notice she has a literary wish list going...
it's pretty clear she'd make good use of it all. If anyone feels like doing a good deed and helping out the kind of teacher that we wish our children would have, check it out!

Links are provided for informational use. Don't forget to support your local bookseller.


Jone said...

I am opening the school library on four Thursdays for book checkout this summer. Your post gave me some ideas to enhance the experience of checking out library books.
The studnets at my school keep track of the number of hours we read. I am going to challenge my staff to keep track of their reading hours this summer.

Carrie K. said...

Don't forget Pirate School by Cathy East Dubowski - my boys loved that one. Edward and the Pirates by David McPhail is another great one.

Tally said...

I made the mistake of allowing a reading slide between kinder and 1st grade. I thought I was doing my son a favour - having a break from school!! He was not enjoying reading to us at that time anyway and it's not something you want to push. Luckily he has clicked with reading in 1st Grade and now I get to spend hours reading with and to him. Searching for books for both of us to enjoy I found your site and it has been a delight Esme, Thanks!

PS We built a fort this morning. While we were in it reading "The Giggler Treatment" the cat jumped on top of it and all the sheets, cushions and books weights came crashing down on us. The cat curled up in the pile and we could hear a muffled purring from underneath!!

MotherReader said...

Wonderful ideas all!

Working at a public library, I would suggest that kids sign up for the summer reading program at their library. Ours gives great prizes and is one way to encourage reading over the summer.

Great promotion on the literary field trip idea. Before me and my kids (then 6 & 9) visited New York City, we read stories that took place there and some very accessible non-fiction children's books about the city. It was fun looking through the books and seeing where we had been.

peter hannan said...

Great blog Esme!

Big hello to you. And Chicago! And Betty!

Peter Hannan


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