Summertime Blues
Working with scores of parents and educators this past year as I trained them how to utilize my Building School and Home Connections kits, I have fielded a number of questions from stressed-out educators and anxious parents. One of the biggest fears people have relates to how they can help children during their summer breaks. Remember, it’s the simple things that tend to work best. When teachers, administrators, and parents work together, there is no stopping children’s success. Here are some ways to collaborate to ensure children read this summer and avoid the dreaded “summer reading slide.”

Ensuring Success
There are a variety of ways to encourage children to read this summer vacation. Here are some of the best techniques to use if you’d like children to return to school this Fall feeling excited and empowered:

1.    Encourage parents to talk a lot with their children. A large body of research shows that students who come from homes where a lot of talking takes place perform significantly higher at school than students who live in home environments where less talking takes place. Interestingly, it does not matter what language is being spoken at home; all that matters is a lot of language is being spoken. So one of the best ways parents can aid their children’s language development is to speak with their children as often as possible. If parents want their children to read, it is recommended they talk about what they are reading and like to read.
2.    Make sure students are surrounded by interesting reading materials. People who read more, read better. This is clearly demonstrated in numerous studies. A great way to help children’s reading aptitudes and attitudes improve this summer is to provide many opportunities for children to read books, magazines, and other materials that may interest them. Schools can distribute information to parents that tells them about public library/local bookstore offerings and events. In fact, many public libraries and bookstores offer summer reading programs. And for those teachers and administrators who really want to be pro-active, why not allow families to check out books from the school library over the summer break?
3.    Go outside. Schools should encourage families to go on outings during the summer break. You don’t have to be rich to experience a wealth of learning opportunities. Trips to area museums, parks, and free summer concerts are just a few of the offerings most municipalities offer in the summer. Who knows? One of these outings may spark children’s interest in a particular subject, leading them to read and write about it further.
4.    Encourage parents to read aloud a lot to their children and in front of their children. Since parents are their children’s greatest role models, one great way to ensure their success this summer is to encourage nightly read-aloud rituals, and by all means parents should read in front of their children. Summer should be a lot more relaxed than during the school year, so families can read with flashlights in tents under the stars in their backyards, haul a bunch of reading materials to the beach or pool, and play games in the car together on family outings like pointing to signs and reading from the print-rich environment around them.

Parents Matter
Let’s face it: parents matter. Summer vacation can cause havoc on many working parents’ schedules. Schools need to do everything they can to help parents help their children. In order to ensure children stay excited about reading (or even discover their reading excitement for the first time), it is critical that school teachers and administrators do their best to encourage parents to talk with their children, surround them with interesting reading materials, and model good reading habits. When families follow these simple tips, children are more likely to perform better in school and become avid readers.