Summertime! Parents around the world breathe a sigh of relief as the everyday stresses of long school days, hectic schedules, and tense nights of homework ease up. Yet, at the same time, many parents hesitate to completely relax during the prolonged summer school break, especially if their children have learning difficulties or disabilities.
We are all familiar with the studies that show that children experience a natural regression of academic skills during the summer months due to being out of school. But how can parents minimize this regression and keep their children’s skills sharp over the summer? The complicated answer is to continue with and build on the goals and structure set out during the school year. The simple answer is: Get your child to READ.
When summer reading becomes part of a daily routine and schedule as it does in the classroom, it represents the continuity, success, and safety that every child craves. Creating and adhering to a reading schedule and an overall daily structure provides all children, and particularly children with special needs, with messages of safety, security, and the value of learning. Setting aside time for reading, much as we set aside time for other tasks and activities, sends a message to our children that reading is important. Further, when a child’s reading is gauged appropriately for his or her level, the feelings of success and accomplishment that follow develop into an intrinsic desire to read.
Not every child naturally loves to read, and many parents need to think creatively to initiate their child’s interest in reading. Think outside the book! Multimedia and technology sources have provided our children, with particular sensitivity to children with special needs, many diverse sources to hone and structure the reading experience. There are books, magazines, and e-books. Younger children can listen to books on tape, or, better yet, set aside time every day to read to your child. Independent readers should read a book that is just one level under their testing level to maintain their motivation, interest, and independent skills.
Here are some basic suggestions on how to plan reading into your child’s summer schedule:
• Ask your child’s teacher for suggestions on a daily summer schedule.
• Ask your child’s teacher for suggested book titles and titles of book series.
• Ask your local librarians for library youth reading group times and book suggestions.
• Have your child create a daily schedule with you that is posted in a central location for continued reminders and reinforcement.
• Keep bedtime and waking time the same to avoid challenges once school time returns.
Finally, remember that YOU also need to take time to read every day! It might seem impossible, but try to make your children’s reading schedule part of your own day and sit down to read a good book each day while they have their reading time. The hard part will be trying to imagine that you are sitting on a beach with a cool drink while you do it…
The following provides a succinct list of essential resources and e-sources for parents of children with special needs to begin the search for reading materials and venues:
• Learning Ally: http://www.learningally.org
• Bookshare: www.bookshare.org
• Overdrive: www.overdrive.com
• MyMediaMall: http://www.mymediamall.net
• Best Book Apps for Kids: www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/best-book-apps-for-kids