116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Just 20 minutes of reading a day can help your child be better prepared to return to school.
Like athletes train to keep their muscles strong, children need to flex their brains over the summer months to maintain the knowledge they gained over the last school year. Reading and literacy are the most important skills for children to maintain to be ready for learning in all other academic subjects, experts say.
“Think about working out — if you go a period of time without doing that, it takes us a long time to get back in shape,” said Kate Stanton, principal at Washington Elementary School in Mount Vernon. “Reading is no different. Our brain forgets, especially at the lower levels of elementary school when we’re just becoming readers.”
Practicing the act of sitting down and focusing on reading is important so children can pick up where they left off in school, Stanton said. Their “bodies are remembering how to read,” she said.
Reading to children also is important to developing and maintaining their listening comprehension. For children who can’t yet read, it’s valuable for them to look at picture books and create a story based on the pictures they see, Stanton said.
“Just 20 minutes of reading a night is linked to greater student success,” said Deborah Reed, director of the Iowa Reading Research Center.
Choose books that align with a child’s interests and act out the story together. Use props like stuffed animals, baby dolls and playhouses to help children think critically about characters, setting and plot, according to the Iowa Reading Research Center.
Make reading a part of family activities. Plan trips to the library as fun events and keep a bag of books in the car to read even if it’s just a 10-minute drive, Reed said.
When reading, ask questions about characters’ feelings, what might happen next in the story and what your child might do if they were in the same situation to encourage thinking skills.
“Yes, we want students to be good readers, but reading and writing are access points to learning,” Reed said. “Many classes are text-based like social studies or science. It’s a critical skill.”
Another beneficial thing families can do together is make a grocery list: practice shorting by putting the items into categories such as fruits and vegetables and name items in the grocery store to practice vocabulary.
Public libraries are great resources to keep children engaged in reading and learning over the summer.
Children are learning to read from kindergarten to third grade, said Dara Schmidt, director of the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Fourth grade and beyond is when children are expected to read to learn.
Model the behavior you want to see, Schmidt said. “Grab a book and sit down with your kids for 10 minutes,” she said.
The Cedar Rapids Public Library has a free Summer Dare program for the entire family. Sign up at crlibrary.beastack.org to log the number of reading minutes. Each person receives a special “badge book” — with stickers — to track reading and fun activities.
“It seems like a silly piece of advice, but kids love stickers,” Schmidt said. “It’s a great way to reward for engaging in the activity you want to see. That positive reinforcement is really important, especially for developing and retaining literacy skills.”
Read 600 minutes between June 4 and July 30 to complete the Summer Dare. Participants do not have to be Cedar Rapids residents or have a library card to participate in Summer Dare.
The library’s mobile technology lab — loaded with laptops, e-readers and tiny robots to help kids learn coding — will be visiting Cedar Rapids parks all summer long.
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