First Book Friday: Summer Literacy Skills

Today’s guest blog post is from Susanne Sparks, an engagement manager at First Book. She’s passionate about leveling the playing field so that all children can learn, grow, and thrive.

As a child, I was a voracious reader. My mother eventually decided that since I read books so quickly, it was best to only buy books occasionally and primarily get books from the library.

My family made frequent trips to the local library during the summer. I didn’t regularly participate in the library summer reading program, but I did set arbitrary goals for myself. One summer I decided to read the entire shelf of biographies about the Kennedy clan. I amended that goal to all of the interesting Kennedy biographies. I still recall random Kennedy quotes from that summer.

Many of my First Book colleagues also share a personal passion for reading, which is one of the reasons why they chose to devote their skills to the organization’s mission. Children must have reading materials in order to practice and acquire literacy skills. Here are some of my favorite tips for helping children develop literacy skills:

  • Reading is reading. Don’t be too picky about the type of reading material. Books, magazines, or comics are all legitimate options.
  • Don’t worry too much about the book being an appropriately challenging. Summer is a perfect time to foster a lifelong love of reading and learning, which might mean going back and re-reading old favorites or picking up a book to read just for fun.
  • Model the behavior you want to see. If you want your child to read in his or her leisure time, read in your leisure time.
  • Set aside a regular time for reading. This might be daily or a couple times a week. A child could read or an adult, an adult to a child, a child to a peer, or a child to a pet. (Yes really, a pet! Therapy dogs are trained to work with struggling readers.)
  • Ask questions. Try to foster both comprehension (e.g. Who is the main character?) and critical thinking (e.g. What do you think will happen next? Why?).
  • Show that it is okay to struggle. Illustrate that what it is like to struggle with a challenging reading passage and how to overcome those challenges. Do you use context clues? Talk through your thinking. Do you look up a word? Show how to use the dictionary. It is important for children to know that reading, just like playing a sport, requires practice and learning.

Looking for more summer activity suggestions? Check out tips for parents in English and Spanish from the National Summer Learning Association about how to keep kids sharp over the summer vacation.