Reading is one of the most important skills you should try to boost outside of school. Foster your child's bookworm habits with these simple activities and tips that make reading so fun, he'll fill up his book chart in no time.
Read Mom's Favorites to Her
Mix up your routine and have kids read parents a bedtime story. Create a list of your favorite childhood reads and take them out of the library. This list of Caldecott Medal Winners from 1938 to present can refresh your memory with great picture books of the past, and this list of 40 classic books for younger teens will give you ideas for older children. Have your child read the stories aloud to you and then discuss whether the book will become one of her favorites and why.
Read the Book, See the Movie
Use your child's love of watching movies to encourage him to read. For example, your younger child could read (or listen to you read) Rapunzel and then see the movie Tangled, while your older child could read the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and then check out the films. Explore the concepts of character and plot by discussing who was in the movie — the "good guys" (protagonists) and "not-so-good guys" (antagonists) — and what they did. Talk about how the book and the movie differed. Check out these other books that have been turned into movies.
Have a Book-Themed Celebration
Plan a series of little parties or events with your child throughout the year that relate to the books she reads. For example, plan an ice cream sundae party to enjoy after she reads Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Go to a local ballet performance after she reads the Angelina Ballerina series. Don't treat reading like a task that needs rewarding, but put a few special nights on the calendar to enhance her reading experiences during free time.
Write a Star's Biography
Does your child have a favorite celebrity or sports hero? Help your younger child learn the concept of biographies by researching and writing a short one on his favorite (role model-worthy) singer, athlete, or movie star. With your older child, try a role-playing activity where he is a newspaper reporter and you are the celebrity he has to interview for an article he is writing. He can do the research and provide you with the answers up front.
"Read This for Me!"
As adults, we take everyday reading skills for granted, absorbing menus and weather reports without thinking twice. Encourage your child to practice her reading during these casual encounters with words. Ask your little one to identify letters or short words on street signs. Have your older child read cooking instructions or newspaper headlines to you. If you have a vacation planned, encourage her to read maps and travel books related to your trip. Kids love opportunities to model adults, and these "grown-up" chances to read can expand their vocabulary beyond their school curriculum.
Read E-books or Books Online
Kindles, Nooks, and iPads aren't only catching on with adults. Children also love high-tech e-book readers, especially during long trips. On Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, you can download classic literature for free. Aesop's Fables, The Secret Garden, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes are just a few examples of free e-books. Find more by searching for "0.00" or "0 00" (the price) on those websites.
Be a Pen Pal
Writing letters is becoming a lost art. Children of any age can keep in touch with a relative or friend by writing letters or postcards about their latest adventures. Help your younger child sound out and spell tough words; give older children grammar and spelling edits. The best part of sending fun snail mail will be getting some in return — hopefully!
Star in a Play
Whether your child joins a theater program or just dabbles in drama at home, reading and attempting to memorize a simple script is a wonderful way to expand his mind and interest in the arts. You can find free plays for children at FreePlays.org. Puppet theater is a fun way to get your younger child to come out of his shell and practice reading aloud.
Have Family Mad Libs Nights
Who doesn't love a family game night? Mad Libs are a fun grammar activity that anyone ages 9 and up will love "playing." Mad Libs are books full of silly fill-in-the-blank stories that help kids learn adjectives, verbs, nouns, exclamations, and other parts of speech. Modify it for your younger child by simply asking for action words, or a person, place, or thing to complete the tale.
Keep a Summer Journal
Your child's life is full of adventures worth writing about! Buy a notebook for your child to use as a travel journal or everyday diary. If she's computer-savvy or artsy, have her take digital photos and write captions to create an online slideshow of her summer fun. Journaling is a great way to reinforce the five Ws of story-telling, used in school reports. Keep a journal every school year or summer, and she will have a special keepsake — and a great record of how her writing has improved since the previous year.