Schools in September are an exciting place but for a teacher there is always a little adjusting to do. She is promised a class of keen readers and avid writers and she is looking forward to a flying start. Instead, she has a confused looking gaggle of youngsters who act as though they’ve never read a book before.
Sadly, holidays can do that to children. Almost two months of sun and fun can leave even the most embedded literacy skills hazy come September. However, the answer is not rigorous revision or mindless workbooks. There are lots of really fun ways to ensure that come September children’s passion for, and ability in, literacy are even stronger than when school broke up. Here are some of my favourite…
1. Create a special reading space where children can enjoy a book in comfort but also with a sense of occasion. In summer set up a reading corner in their Wendy house - put in colourful cushions, posters of their favourite books and supply them with cool drinks. Tree houses are another brilliant place or, if you don’t have a ready made outdoor structure, create a secret space under a bush . If you don’t have a garden then visit your nearest park with rugs, yummy snacks and their favourite stories. Remember to bring your book as well and show them how much you enjoy reading too. To see more ideas of great reading nooks check out our finds here.
2. Encourage them to write a diary about their summer adventures - it’s the old classic and it works. Just a few sentences a day about what they’ve been up to can really help a child maintain their writing skills. Get them to draw pictures, stick in photos and collect tickets. If they need a rather more unusual challenge try suggesting different text types - they might write a poem about their trip to the sea, a newspaper article about their holiday in Spain or a pamphlet explaining all the fun things to do in their local park. If you want a more hi-tech version and have a tablet then you can download book-making programmes that, with a little support, children should be able to use largely independently. They will have lots of fun adding text, pictures and designing their perfect layout.
3. Create fun activities around a book. For this you need look no further than the website Playing by the Book by Zoe Toft. It has hundreds of ideas around picture books including craft, food, games and drama and has a list of themes to help you choose the right books for your child’s holiday. My favourite blog at the moment is her ‘perfect picture book picnic’ where she created a whole day of summer holiday fun around books. Read it and get ready to be inspired!
4. Create a treasure hunt with clues based on books. The children may know the answers from a favourite story or they might have to read in order to find out. Once they have completed it then get them to write clues for their own hunt. This is encouraging them to read and write by stealth and although it takes some time to prepare they will be entranced!
5. Visit your local library and join the Summer Reading Challenge. Libraries have lots of incentives, activities and events designed to create excitement around children’s reading. If you decide not to take part in the challenge then the library is still a great trip for a rainy day. Give them missions such as finding a book daddy would like to read to them, a book their best friend would love or one that has certain characters such as witches. If you go with a certain theme then remember to look at Playing by the Book for activities to go along with them.
I hope you keep words alive this summer and we’d love to hear any other ideas you have…