black and white photo of a little girl

Photo by Jan Prokeš on

School’s out, but don’t let the long break from school derail all the academic gains your child made this year!   Kids do regress if they don’t do any reading or writing activities during the long summer break, so to help prevent that, here are some ideas:

  1.  READ and READ some more.  Take your child to the library, and find books that they can read so they can continue to practice.  The children’s librarian can be a great help.
  2. If they are beginning readers, and are hesitant, keep it simple.  Echo reading is a great way to get them engaged without frustrating them, and helps them with fluency.
  3. I read, you read – take turns.  As you model, this helps with fluency and expression.
  4. If your child comes across words they don’t know ask them what strategies they know to figure out unknown words.  They should use picture clues, (yes …this is not cheating!), skip the word and read to the end of the sentence and then reread the sentence having their mouth ready to say the first sound in the word.  Often using the context will help them figure out the word.  This also teaches them that it’s ok to skip words and reread, and to always be thinking about what would make sense. Look for little words in big words.
  5. Go to the library each week for new books, and introduce them to fun series.  Your librarian can help if you don’t know what is available for kids your child’s age.  Also, check to see if your library has a summer reading program.  These can be motivating  to keep kids reading.
  6. Don’t forget to write.  Have your child keep a summer diary.  Writing helps with reading skills, and vice-versa.   Consider having a bedtime diary.  Your child writes you a note just before bed and puts it on your pillow.  You answer it so when they wake up in the morning, they can read it.  This is fun if done in a journal format so it builds.
  7. Consider writing letters or cards and mailing them to a friend or relative.  Relatives that you know will write back are the best!
  8. Have your child create lists if you are going shopping and when in the store, have them read around the store.
  9. Be sure to let them see you reading and writing and don’t forget to read to them!  Even older kids like being read to, and you can read them books that may be too hard for them, that teaches them science, social studies or math concepts.  This also helps with vocabulary development.
  10. Create a fun place in their room where they can keep books, paper, pens, crayons, etc.   Great for a rainy day!
  11. Most importantly, have fun with reading and writing.  Don’t worry about what level your child is and if you see them getting frustrated back off and follow their lead.    Love them as you enjoy some great summertime reading together!  Marvel if they are beginning to communicate through writing.  Correction is not the focus – but the message is!  If kids feel criticized and corrected as they are learning new things, they may shut down, and shut you out.  Follow their lead and delight in their unique abilities!
  12. If your child is reluctant, or simply doesn’t want to do any reading/writing – you may try making it part of a routine that comes before some things that you know they love.  My Grandkids are on summer break, and before we swim, we do some reading.  I think I love it just as much as they do!  It’s exciting for me to have my six-year-old Grandson reading to me!  I know the practice will help him as he begins first-grade in the Fall.
  13. Don’t ever compare your child to others – marvel in what it is that they can do and pay attention.  What may seem like nothing to you is a GREAT BIG DEAL to a young child who is just beginning to unravel the marvelous world of reading and writing.  What a gift you can give them by being with them on this journey!

Happy summer and happy reading and writing!

Reading Rockets is a great source for book ideas!


A Birthday Party for Oofie and Rufus Silas – THE ART OF PLAY



The movement for testing has led to pushing academics onto younger and younger children at the expense of creativity and play. This is ironic, as young children learn best through play.

In the school where I taught, I was proud to be part of a team that was cutting edge in the area of authentic assessments.  WE always knew exactly what our young children needed to move them to the next level, based on documentation of real reading and writing activities they engaged in on a daily basis.  WE knew so much more than standardized tests could ever tell us about  our young students.  WE had formal reading assessments that were done periodically one-one, as well as daily assessments that were done as we taught our small groups.  WE also learned a lot from looking at their writing development as well as how they engaged in play.  WE had pages of notes on each child that informed our instruction….for THAT child.

When I taught we still had a half day Kindergarten program.  At the beginning of the school year, many of my students needed a good month to adapt to being in school full day.  WE spent time in the afternoon doing less intense activities that involved hands on play, snack and  free time.  AS the children adjusted, so did the length of time they were able to engage in more intense academics.  BUT we were always sensitive to their needs as developing young children, with the need for play still being important.

I was always amazed at the thinking of my students and the divergent ways they had of doing things.  Whenever I didn’t understand what they were doing, if I took the time to ask and listen, they could explain their thought process and it always made sense.   IF you dig a bit you will see the genius of their young brains!

Don’t ever underestimate your child’s need for free play and  all the learning that is inherent in that pursuit.  BY free play, I do not mean a free for all while children run crazy with no parameters,  but a time where children are given the opportunity to explore in a safe place with adults nearby to assist and support as needed.

Sit back and watch young children as they engage in free play.  Their creativity knows no bounds.  The beauty is that their brains are open and free of clutter.  Young children have  not been “institutionalized” and made to follow the lock-step methods of learning; the ‘one-size fits all’ mentality that kills creativity.

I love watching children play!  My Grandkids (ages 3 and 4)  spent over an hour creating a birthday party for their stuffed animals.  I supported by supplying some materials, such as old party bags, wrapping paper and party supplies that they knew I had around the house.  The creativity and stamina in creating the party scene was wonderful to see.  The language as they talked and shared ideas, the fine motor skills as they tied,  cut, taped , wrapped; the cooperation and  executive thinking skills involved,  the writing as they created cards – so much learning in their play.  I wonder how long their party making would have lasted had I jumped in to tell them what to do and how to do it.  Probably not very long – and look at all the learning that would have been lost!

SO don’t forget the importance of play.  Join a group of kids and step into their world of play.    WE are never too old,  and we just might be reminded of some of our own creativity that may have been lost along the way.  Getting lost in play with a child is a gift that illuminates the beauty and creativity of unspoiled  innocence.  It helps to remind us about what is important.   Children can do that for us if we let them.IMG_5737







Daily writing in first-grade was a time when I was allowed into the lives of my young students.  AS I conferenced with them one-one, I heard about everything from birthday celebrations to sibling death.  This sacred time helped them find a writing voice, allowed me to get to know them, while also working on skills needed to develop as a reader and writer.

It’s  never too early to help your child find their voice as an author.   It begins from infancy with language, language, and more language as you read to them and talk with them.

AS soon as your child is old enough, provide markers, chalk, pens, pencils, crayons,  paper, white boards  ….and let them experiment with drawing and writing.


ASK your child to tell you a story about an experience.  Try and get them to focus on something real that happened to them, as this is much easier than make believe. This works best right after you and your child have experienced something together so you can say, “That was so much fun.  I don’t EVER want to forget that….why don’t we write a story about it!!”  (BE EXCITED!!!)  IMG_3336

For young preschoolers,  write  the words for them, and have them  illustrate each page.  Show respect by staying out of their creation once they are drawing, and make sure you ask them where they would like the words on the page.  When you write you are modeling left-right and top to bottom progression, and concept of “word” as you point to each word and read back what is written.   AND If your child is ready and willing, you can also work on letter/sound correspondence.  Once their book is done, put it in their library, and don’t forget to remind them that they are an author and illustrator. HOW EXCITING!!

AS always, follow your child’s lead, have fun and help them to love finding their voice as a writer.

Here is a great article about children’s writing development.

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