July 8th 2013

For many adults the longer days and more flexible schedules of summer provide a highly prized opportunity to read for pleasure. In my unscientific poll this month I discovered that everyone I asked was eager to tell me about something they are reading this summer.

Not all children share this enthusiasm for reading as summertime entertainment. So parents need to get creative about slipping in activities that keep thinking skills sharp. Here are some ideas to create a fun and enriching environment during the summer.

  • Family Time. Establish a regular time when you will read aloud to the whole family. Play board games which require some reading, spelling or math. Take turns acting out a favorite story or scene. Doing activities as a family lets your kids know that you value and enjoy learning too.
  • Fill a toy box with age-appropriate puzzles, Play-doh, art supplies, craft ideas, board games, playing cards, and a joke book.
  • Create a literature rich environment by leaving books, magazines, and colorful catalogs around your home. Notice what attracts your children’s attention. Ask your child what new thing they would like to learn about. Then build on that interest.

Let your children see you reading for pleasure in your spare time. Use dinner time, car time, or any relaxed setting to share your reactions to things you read, and encourage your children to do the same. Set aside a regular time for recreational reading as a family.

  • Get the whole neighborhood involved. Help children enjoy creative play while developing social skills by inviting their friends over. Set up board game tournaments, craft days, and baking or building-themed playtime. Have lots of dress up clothes and props available to spark their imaginations. Limit television, computer and video game time.
  • When visiting someplace new check out the local children’s museums, aquariums, and history tours. Menus, road signs, and food labels are good reading opportunities.
  • Offer special incentives to encourage your child’s reading. Allow your child to stay up an extra 15 minutes to finish a chapter. Relieve your child of a regular chore to free up time for reading.
  • Play games in the car. “20 Questions” “I Spy”, “Name that Tune”, and even knock-knock jokes can help improve a child’s logic, reasoning and memory while you all build great memories of happy times together.
  • Get involved in the local library summer reading program. Children get to choose the books they want to read and are motivated by prizes and recognition. Make a trip to the library a weekly event.

These activities do much more than just fill the idle hours. Active family learning prevents significant loss of academic skills. When children’s brains are not stimulated they have a harder time getting back up to speed when school resumes.

It is not too late to participate in READ UP Summer Reading sponsored by the Children’s Reading Foundation. READ UP is an eight week event to promote family literacy during the summer. Each week new children’s books and information for parents are available for free around the county. Books have been specially selected to appeal to children from toddlers through eight years old and are available in English and Spanish. Visit Meerschidt Recreation Center, Mesilla Park Community Center, or at the Fire Station on East Mesa and Porter at Thursdays at 2 p.m. for story time, parent information and READ UP book distribution. Branigan Public Library includes READ UP as part of the regularly scheduled preschool activity programs.