Summertime is upon us! The school year is coming to an end and our favorite summer activities are right around the corner: Running barefoot through sprinklers, savoring a neon-colored snow cone and sitting in the shade of a favorite tree with a good book. What could be better?
Even though school is letting out, children can strengthen their literacy skills with summertime literacy programs, available through local libraries, community centers, schools, bookstores and even online. Bilingual children, in particular, can significantly improve their literacy during the summer by reading bilingual books in both of their languages.
As we mentioned in our previous article, literacy can grow and develop regardless of language. The most important thing is that bilingual children are provided with quality reading materials and an incentive to read them. Instilling a love of reading should always be the primary goal for our students.
Here is a list of programs that can help students strengthen their literacy skills this summer:
- Library programs: Libraries around the country launch literacy programs each summer which include a variety of incentives. Some programs offer children free books after a certain number of books have been read. Other programs offer free passes to local museums and/or amusement parks. Make sure your students are aware of these programs and encourage them to participate. They are fun and get students involved in their local libraries. Put together a list of libraries that have books in your students’ target languages – and make sure each of your students has a copy before they head out for the summer!
- Community center programs: Many community centers offer literacy programs, classes and activities during the summer. Some will offer classes on specific topics while others offer all-day camps which engage students in a variety of fun literacy activities. Find out if community centers in your area offer these programs and let your students and their parents know about them. These are often affordable and cater to the specific needs and interests of the local community.
- Local school programs: Will your school have a reading challenge for students and their parents this year? If so, let your students know! It is even more fun when parents agree to document their reading together with their children. Or maybe your school district will have a summer literacy program with on-site activities, programs and camps? If your district is offering something like this, make sure to get this information out to families and encourage them to participate.
- Online reading programs: Online reading programs can be a fantastic way to get students motivated to read this summer. The Scholastic Summer Challenge is a fun site where students can log their reading minutes to earn rewards. At the Sylvan Book Adventure, students can find books, take quizzes on what they read and earn prizes. Soar with Reading is another program where students can log reading progress, download activity packets and more. Help your students find an online program that will reward their efforts even if the books they are reading are bilingual and/or in a language other than English.
- Bookstore programs: Small and large bookstores alike offer reading incentive programs to children during the summer. Some may offer a discount after a certain number of books have been read while others may offer a prize of a free book. Barnes & Noble’s Imagination Destination summer reading program even includes a downloadable kit with fun activities and teaching tips. Help students find local bookstores that sell books in their target language – maybe they can choose one of those books as their “prize.”
- Literacy camps: A wonderful way to immerse students in literacy activities is in day camps that focus specifically on literacy. It is a great way to help students gain confidence in their literacy skills through a variety of methods and activities: dance, art, crafts, music, poetry and more. Best are camps that cater specifically to bilingual students. Find out if there are any in your area and pass on this information to students, parents, other teachers and administrators.
Even though summer programs can help students develop their literacy this summer, it is important to remind parents that they are an essential element in this process – regardless of which language(s) they speak at home.
Encourage parents to read out loud to their children this summer as much as possible and to discuss the books and stories that their children are reading. Make sure that parents understand that literacy developed in one language will transfer to the other language. Instilling the love of literacy in a child needs no formal training – snuggling on the sofa while reading a book together is a perfect summertime literacy activity that any parent can provide.
Photo credit: San Jose Library
What are some summertime literacy programs in your area? What tips do you give parents for how to keep literacy strong during the summer?