SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

5 Ways To Enhance Summer Fun With Reading

Summer is a great time to link purposeful reading to what you are doing as a family. Here are five simple ways to make summer reading goals easy and fun:

  • If you are going to the park, take some favorite books along, for both you and your child. After she plays on the swings, slide, or monkey bars, together take a 5-minute reading break, on a special bench or in the shade under a tree. Depending on how long you are at the park, take two, three, or more reading breaks in between play. When you join in the break, you are subtly reinforcing the importance and enjoyment of reading.
  • Tie activities to corresponding books. For example, if you are going to a baseball game, get a book or two out of the library to read about baseball beforehand. Three examples are Ballpark by Eileen R. Meyer, The Everything Kids Baseball Book by Greg Jacobs, and Curious George at the Baseball Game by Margaret Rey and H.A. Rey
  • On a nice night, set up a small tent or make one using a sheet or blanket in the backyard. Grab a flashlight and your child’s favorite bedtime story (or stories) and read them in the tent before going back into the house to bed.
  • At the pool or beach, stretch out on a towel or blanket for a “read and dry” break. Challenge her to use her finger or a stick to print a new word (that she has just learned) in the sand.
  • Have a “Book Club Play Date Break.” When your child has a friend over for a play date, have the children take a short read-and-snack break. Let them take turns reading a page of the book to each other. After reading, while they’re having a snack, encourage them to talk about the story. Ask simple questions like “What was your favorite part?” “Where did this story take place?” “Who was the main character?” etc.

By being creative and making reading part of everyday activities, reading becomes a memorable aspect of summertime fun!

Continue reading
2848 Hits

Tips for Connecting With Your Kids During the Summer

Summertime! Kids everywhere are living in anticipation of release from school for the summer. What happens then? That is an important question to ask; parents everywhere should consider what is best for their children. When planning your child’s summer, I suggest you consider the following.

Encourage your children to read! Reading skills, like any other skills, get better with practice. Besides that, reading good books is a great escape from reality. For ideas of what to encourage your children to read, take a look at 50 Books Every Child Should Read. Some of these books are written for younger children (The Lorax and The Giving Tree, for example) and would be easy reads for your teen. They have important lessons to learn, however, and spending a little time reading them to younger siblings is a valuable experience. For great family time, read the same books together and spend time over dinner discussing the books. My daughter likes to read a book together with her children and then watch the movie of the book. The questions and discussion that follows is natural and fun for her and the kids.

Get outside and enjoy the great outdoors! Kids do not spend enough time outside playing. Think about the games you played with other children and teach them to your own kids. For younger kids, Four Square, King of the Hill, Kick the Can, and Capture the Flag are fun and provide enjoyable exercise. Participating in summer league sports or attending a sports camp can help build skills and keep in shape over the summer months, as well. For some ideas for outdoor games, see 30 Outdoor Games for Simple Outdoor Play.

Limit screen time. It is important that teens do not spend all their free time online. It is true that there are great educational games and apps, but teens needs to develop their fine motor skills that are not developed when typing, using a mouse, or tapping a screen. Besides that, educational games are not often chosen by teens. They are more likely to play online games with friends that can consume all their attention. There is something to be said for becoming an expert in one activity, but teens’ brains are in a state of neuron development that needs multiple kinds of stimulation—not like what they receive playing the same games for hours.

Take some short trips in the car. Some of the best conversations take place when traveling by car. Parents rarely get that much time with their children. Engage them in deep, thoughtful discussions with open-ended questions. Perhaps you can start by asking “What was the most important lesson you learned in the last year of school? Why was that important?” Then next, “What goals are you going to set for next year? How will that help you?”

Relish the time you have with your child this summer. Spend time traveling, playing games, and reading together. Talk, talk, talk! Families can get so busy they forget to slow down and visit with each other. Adolescents like to pretend they do not need their parents any more. Truthfully, though, they are making decisions that can affect the rest of their lives. They need you now more than ever; the extra time you have together this summer is important time for you to provide the guidance they need.

Continue reading
2825 Hits

Keep Your Child Reading All Summer

Keep Your Child Reading This SummerOne successful reading strategy I’ve used in 1st grade is pairing students with a 5th grade “reading buddy.” We would meet with our buddies once a week. Sometimes the older student would read to the younger one. Other times, the 1st graders would read to the 5th graders. Often, there was a discussion about the book, followed by a drawing or simple project related to the story. It’s always sad to lose our buddies at the end of the school year!

With summer vacation coming soon, this concept got me thinking about ideas to keep students reading all summer long.

Here are six simple suggestions:

  • Pair up your young child with an older sibling or trusted neighborhood student for some summer “buddy” reading time. One way to thank that older child is a gift card to a local ice cream shop or game shop.
  • Create a special “reading spot” for rainy days. This could be a bean bag chair, soft large pillow, or sheet over a table for a reading tent. Keep a small basket of books by his favorite author in the spot.
  • Focus on illustrations that tell the story. Young students love wordless books that tell a great story with pictures. Get some of these from your local library. Two authors that create these types of books are Frank Asch and Mercer Mayer. Your librarian can suggest more.
  • Focus on award-winning books. Ask your librarian to help you look for books that have won the Caldecott Medal or Newbery Award. Read them together with your child, and discuss what she thinks made them award-winners.
  • Read some child cookbooks and together make one or two of the easy recipes.
  • Have a family “read aloud” night. Take turns reading a family favorite book aloud.

When you combine reading practice with fun activities, you help create a lifelong love of reading!

Continue reading
4158 Hits

Get Your 1st Grader “Common Core Ready” for Reading

If your child is entering 1st grade, there are certain skills that should have been mastered in kindergarten. To keep those skills sharp, and be first-grade “Common Core Ready” for reading, here are 3 ways to practice during the remaining weeks of summer. These activities are perfect when reading a fiction or non-fiction story together, at bedtime or anytime:


• Ask your child questions about the story and make sure he answers using key details. For example, if reading Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne, you might try asking, “What are the children’s names and how are they related?” (Jack and Annie are brother and sister.) Or, “How does Jack escape from the T-Rex?” (He gets a ride on the back of a Pteranodon.)

• If reading a non-fiction text, such as From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman focus on setting and events.  Ask, “Where does this story take place?” (Children in the story observe the changes in a classroom) “How does the caterpillar become a butterfly?”  (Egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly…metamorphosis!) 

• Ask your child to answer questions that determine or clarify word meanings in a sentence. When reading Whales by Gail Gibbons, for example, ask, “How do you know a whale is a mammal?” (Breathes air, babies born alive, not hatched, etc.) “What are the two different groups of whales?” (Toothed and baleen.)

 Teaching your child to pay attention to details, setting, events, and new vocabulary in stories will insure that she becomes a proficient and comprehensive 1st grade reader!

Editor’s note: Is your child entering kindergarten? Read Connie’s blog posts on preparing your child to be “Common Core Ready” for kindergarten math.

Continue reading
3995 Hits

Summer Reading for Youngsters Using Common Core Standards

Motivating your young child to read during the summer can be a challenge. Here are 3 easy ideas to keep your child reading all summer, while subtly reinforcing the Common Core reading standards.

  • Connect reading to projects or crafts: Encourage your child to read Two Blue Jays by Anne Rockwell and Megan Halsey.  This is an engaging story about students observing blue jays building a nest outside their classroom window. Then, help her make a simple birdhouse to hang in a tree in your backyard.  Or, have him read Maisy Makes Lemonade by Lucy Cousins, and help him set up a lemonade stand.


  •  Connect reading to family travel or other family interests: Together read Punky Goes Fishing by Sally G. Ward, before going on a fishing trip. Or, read The Little Airplane by Lois Leski before going on an airplane trip.


  • Set a Summer Reading Goal: Challenge your child to read 5 books a week.  Keep a reading sticker chart, and for each book read, add a sticker. When there are 15 stickers on the chart have a special reward for your good reader, such as an ice cream sundae or new beach toy.


 Other Fun Ways to Focus on Common Core Reading Standard:

• Have her tell you key details in the story.

• Have him retell the story to demonstrate understanding of its main idea.

• Talk about characters, setting, and events in the story.

• Compare and contrast adventures and experiences of the characters in the story.

Make meaningful reading part of your family’s summertime fun!


Editor's note: Another fun way to read with your child—while combining a fun activity—is to read the recipe for these Lemonade Cookies, which are easy to make, or choose other recipes to make with children from our Recipe Share.

Continue reading
3128 Hits

3 Easy Ways to Get Your Child “Hooked” on Books This Summer!

Reading is like playing an instrument: Without practice, you’ll get rusty.

Each summer, when my husband was a young boy in elementary school, my mother-in-law, Mimi, would find age appropriate books that would interest him. She would sit him down and read the first chapter aloud. Mimi would then hand him the book and say “I think you are really going to like how this ends.” He was hooked!

Here are 3 fun and simple activities to encourage your young child to read all summer long, and keep his reading skills sharp while getting him “hooked” on books.

1. Have a reading day at the beach or pool. For every half hour in the water, take a 10 minute “reading break” in the shade of an umbrella or a tree. 

2. Start a neighborhood “Parent/Child Book Club.” Keep it small. Start with two or three of your child’s friends and one of their parents. Take turns hosting. The host family chooses the book for the meeting.  Your child can read the book by himself, or you can read it to him. The host family should also list 5 questions to get the book discussion started. For example: “What did you like best about the story?” Or, “Where did this story take place?” Group book discussions are a great way to help your child see different points of view, while having fun with her friends.

3. Enroll your child in a summer reading program at your local public library. Most libraries have summer programs that help your child earn rewards for reading during the summer. Some libraries even offer discounts to local attractions that the whole family can enjoy.

Relaxed summer reading is the perfect way to get your child “hooked on books!”

Editor's note: Check out these these related articles on summer reading:




Continue reading
4346 Hits
1 Comment

School Family Connection Newsletter

Get school tips, recipes, worksheets, and more

First Name
Email *
Yes, send offers from carefully selected partners.
(* = required field)


Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?

No - 37.4%
Sometimes - 25.4%
Yes - 31.6%

Total votes: 4919
The voting for this poll has ended on: June 25, 2016