Ten Ways to Make Summer Reading Fantastically Fun
By Arielle Haughee
Summer is a time for fun and also a time when kids can regress in their reading skills. That’s why reading is essential for this time of year. It can be tough to pry kids away from screens and get their noses into books, but we’ve corralled a list of great activities to keep things light and fun for kids. You can adapt these activities for a variety of ages and reading levels. After all, you know what will work best for your child.
1. Theme Day
Pick a theme your child will enjoy, such as pirates. Get a set of library books all around your theme such as How I Became a Pirate by David Shannon and Pirates Go to School by Corinne Demas. A youth librarian can help you get a stack of books all on your theme. Spend the day dressed as pirates, talking like pirates, and eating “pirate food.” You can top the day off by looking up jokes related to your theme. (Why does it take so long for a pirate to learn the alphabet? They spend years at C!)
2. Be the Illustrator
This is an especially great activity for a budding artist. Tell your child they will get to be the illustrator today. You can cover up the front cover of a new book and read aloud or you could download an audiobook they might enjoy. You could also read The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak. Have your child create art they believe shows the story. If you are able, introduce a variety of mediums such as crayon, marker, paint, or collage. It would be especially fun if you also participated and made your own artwork for the book then you both discuss what you made.
3. Choose Theme Music
Incorporating music is a great way to engage other parts of the brain. You can use this activity for fiction or nonfiction books. (Don’t forget about nonfiction!) Go to a website where you can play samples of music such as bensound.com. Start by choosing an adjective that fits the theme of a particular book, then search that word in the search bar. Next, let your child listen to different samples and choose the one they feel fits that particular book best. For example, for the nonfiction book Amazing Snakes by Sarah L. Thomson, you might search the word “scary” and choose the clip “Immense” on Bensound.
4. Reader’s Theater
This is a teacher favorite that is also fun to do at home. For reader’s theater, you act out a story, practicing saying dialogue with expression. Choose a book with interesting dialogue, such as my book Grumbler by Arielle Haughee. You can integrate costumes and props as appropriate and even record your performance to share with family members.
5. Read to the “Class”
Kids love when they get a chance to be the leader. In this activity, they get to be a teacher and read to their own class. Start by setting up a “classroom” with a chair up front. Then collect stuffed animals, lego people, or any toy you have that resembles a person or animal. It’s even more fun if the adult sits down with the class and pretends to be a student. Have your child read to their class and discuss the book. If you have a white board, poster paper, or even cardboard, they can write notes on their “board.” For fun, they can end their school day giving each of their students “grades.”
6. Sidewalk Chalk Sequence
Summer is a great time to get outside. Sit in the shade and have your child read the book selected for this activity. You can use the squares already in the sidewalk, or draw large squares on your driveway. For younger children, focus on three squares for beginning, middle, and end. Old children can have more squares for the sequence of events in the story. Have them draw pictures for the events in order, then retell the story using their drawings.
7. Story Math Sentences
This activity especially appeals to the left-brained child. Select books with clear plots for the math sentences. Start by reading The Grinch as an example. If you don’t have the book, here is a great YouTube read aloud. Then discuss the following story math sentence as an example: the grinch + Christmas = stolen decorations. Another example is from Knuffle Bunny: girl – knuffle bunny = sad. Have your child come up with an addition or subtraction math sentence using the story plot. They can even quiz another adult by giving them the first part of their equation and asking for the answer.
8. Fairy Tale Twist Foldable
This activity can be done with any story, but lends itself particularly well to fairy tales. Check out a variety of classic fairy tales from your library. After reading, take a piece of colored paper and fold it in half long-ways. Then cut the top portion to create three or four flaps. Next, have your child write the regular story sequence on top of each flap. Now comes the fun part. Have them lift each flap and write an alternative event that could have happened instead, something that still makes sense with the story. (Some kids may need more guidance than others with this.) For example, in The Three Little Pigs, the first pig could build their house out of marshmallows. At the end of the activity, they can lift all the flaps and have their own twist on a classic fairy tale.
9. Travel Passport
Visit another country while staying at home! Ask your child which country they might like to visit someday. Check out books about that country. For example, if they picked Greece, you could get books on Greek mythology, Greek cookbooks, books on Greek architecture/famous buildings, and books on Greek art. Create a “passport” based off of the books you checked out that will get stamped with each book they’ve read or activity they’ve completed. Eat Greek food and listen to Greek music throughout the day. Be creative and integrate as much of the country’s culture as you can and make sure to stamp their passport throughout the day.
10. Compare and Contrast Book Fort
Everyone loves a good book fort, but this one has a purpose! Create a fort using whatever materials you have at home: blankets, sheets, pillows, twinkle lights. Then supply the fort with books used to compare and contrast. You could get different versions of fairy tales or different books on the same nonfiction topic. You could even pop some popcorn and have your child compare and contrast the book and the movie.
Whatever you decide to do for summer reading, the key is to make it fun! Whether you are dressing up, drawing, listening to music, or cooking a recipe, remember that building a love of books is something that will last a lifetime. So make each memory count!
Previously an elementary teacher, Arielle Haughee is an author, editor, and owns the small press Orange Blossom Publishing. She is the author of Grumbler, Sixth Sunday, and Pling’s Party. Learn more at OrangeBlossomBooks.com.