6 Reasons to Read to your Kids This Summer

I’m a big fan of reading. It’s been my favorite reason to stay up late since I was old enough to do it on my own. But I have happy memories from long before that when my parents, usually my dad, would read us bedtime stories. He very patiently read the Disney version of Cinderella to me hundreds of times. He read us novels like A Wrinkle in Time. My mom read me Little Women and got us a hardcover classic children’s book every Christmas for years. I’m looking at them on the bookshelf now and wondering when I can trust my own kids with them. Remind me, when do kids outgrow the paper-eating stage? Anyway, whether your kids are lap babies or pre-teens, there are lots of reasons to read to kids in the summer, and lots of fun reading activities you can try.

Model fluency and vocabulary

So this is the boring, teacher-y reason to recommend reading to kids this summer. Reading books to your child lets them hear how good reading sounds. It exposes them to structures and rhythms and vocabulary words in good books that they can’t read on their own yet. Or, even if it’s an old favorite that they can read on their own, they can learn from the way you read it, the places you pause and the questions you ask. 

Expand genres

You can read your child books they might not pick on their own. Stuck on superheroes? Maybe it’s time to introduce them to Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. Loving fairies? How about Peter Pan? Read them old favorites from your childhood or browse the librarians’ recommendations at your local library for new favorites. Read to them from magazines or the newspaper. Check out the books that have been made into their favorite movies. Find a biography of a favorite athlete or historical figure. 

Quality time

Making a point of sitting down and reading to your kids this summer is a way to make sure you spend some quality time with the family. I know “Quality Time” is a cliche and that it puts pressure on busy parents to not just keep their kids alive, but to Make Memories. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Think about summer as an opportunity to slow down and do this one thing that will get your whole family sitting in the same place, not fighting over toys, not begging for snacks, and not watching TV. 

A break from the midday heat

My kids are pale little creatures, about half Irish. Sunshine is their kryptonite. So whatever I can do to keep them out of the sun between about 11 and 2, when the sun is strongest and shade is hard to find, becomes my favorite activity. I won’t lie, a few days a week that’s a nap for the small one and an after-lunch Netflix matinee for the big one. But when everyone is awake, it’s a great time to sprawl all over the couch and read out loud.

Learn together

The couch or your kids’ bedrooms are great places to read, but reading out loud to your kids doesn’t have to mean getting snuggled up. You can show your child how to read for information, like reading guide books to plan your summer vacation or reading the directions for their new swingset. When my curious 4-year-old wants to know something, he asks, “Can we watch a video on YouTube about it?” That’s the easy way to find out something new, but reading is not obsolete. Find a book or a website about the things your child is curious about and show them how to read for information. It will be easier now than it will be when they are back at school and following their curiosity is put aside in favor of research and reports

Start a new tradition

What’s the most relaxing place for you? Do you love lying on a picnic blanket in the park? Chairs on the beach? Rocking on your back porch? In a tent, listening to the crickets? Think about what makes you happiest – then add a book. You don’t have to make every book you read an amazing adventure, but you can give your children the powerful gift of remembering reading as relaxing, warm and fun, something you do because you love it. 

The point

I started this blog post with half a dozen tabs open with all kinds of research I could cite about why reading to kids makes them happier and smarter and makes their sweaty socks smell better (OK, no, it doesn’t do that). But really, parent to parent, I say read to your kids this summer because it makes everyone feel happy. And if you’re dreading it for some reason, it’s time to try something new. New place, new time, new reading material. It’s summer. Have fun!

If you want a free summer reading bingo board and some email blog updates with more ideas to make reading fun, give me your email address below. 

Five Reasons to Start with a New Tutor This Summer

1. You have more time

No PTA meetings. No school drop-offs. And it seems like our adult schedules let up a little in the summer, too. More time to meet with a tutor, find the right fit, and set a schedule without making yourself crazy!

2. Your child doesn’t have any homework

When I meet with students for the first time during the school year, we end up doing a lot of homework triage. Instead of starting with the foundational skills they need to succeed, like vocabulary or strategies for reading comprehension, we have to just find a way to get through the homework so they can catch up or keep up with the class. In the summer, I can build lessons around students’ needs and interests and they can make good progress without worrying about falling behind in some other area of their learning.

3. Your child feels less stressed

This goes right along with the homework. But students also feel stressed by extracurriculars, music lessons and practice, sports, and social stuff during the school year. In the summer, kids are sometimes even bored! It’s a beautiful thing. And it gives them lots of breathing room to work on their reading or writing skills.

4. Tutors often have more availability

During the school year, I’m limited to evening hours because I teach during the day. In the summer, I have some afternoons open for tutoring and can often meet earlier in the evening (or later) to give families a flexible schedule that fits their needs.

5. Your child will start the school year confident in her new skills instead of worried about the new challenges

This is the best reason! What could be better than knowing that the academic worries that made this past school year hard are not problems anymore? Your child can walk into school next year excited to show off what he can do!

Contact me for a free consultation and demo lesson to see if online tutoring is a good fit for your child this summer.

Enter your email address below to get a free copy of my Summer Reading Bingo to keep your kids reading this summer!

Can my child fail her kindergarten screening?

Schools have a variety of different practices for kindergarten screening. Some have kids come in during the spring for a tour, screening, or orientation. Other schools do it right before school starts at the end of the summer, or even on the first few days of school. If you are wondering about your child’s kindergarten screening, the best source of information is the school itself. The second best source is any group of local parents, in person or on social media.

No matter when they schedule it, your child’s new school will probably have one or more events before kindergarten starts, so kids can get used to the new school building and teachers and other staff have the chance to meet the students. This often includes a brief screening assessment. A kindergarten screening is a great opportunity for teachers to get to know students and for kids to meet some new adults and show off what they know by playing some short learning games.

Even though kindergarten screening can be a very positive experience, I have rarely seen a parent look as anxious as parents do as they watch their freshly scrubbed and combed little boy or girl walk away with a teacher for their screening. It’s totally understandable. I mean, before your children turn 5, how many times do you really just have them walk away from you with another adult for set for any reason? Maybe they’ve been with babysitters or daycare or preschool teachers but for the most part, you’ve been along to at least ease the transition.

I promise you, kindergarten screenings are nothing for either you or your child to be nervous about. Hopefully, reading this post will take some of the mystery out of the process and help you and your child enjoy their introduction to their new school!

Why do kindergartens do screenings?

Take a moment to see the world through kindergarten teacher’s eyes. All of a sudden, on the first day of school, about 20 little people enter your classroom. They’re excited, they’re curious, they’re shy, they’re crying, and they’re wondering when it’s time for snack. The teacher has to keep the class moving through the day and engaged to give them a great first day of school, so she doesn’t have a lot of chances to sit and chat with individual kids that first day. Kindergarten screening is where children have the opportunity to interact one-on-one with one of the professionals that work within the school and they are incredibly valuable for teachers. It can speed up the process of the teachers at school getting to know your child’s strengths and their needs.

What will they ask my child to do at kindergarten screening?

Schools use many different tools for the kindergarten screening process. Regardless of whether they have published assessment tool that they use or whether they have put together their own set of activities, they are often looking for some of these skills:

  • Communicating verbally – this can include chatting with the adults in the room, giving information like their full name, naming pictures and saying what words mean
  • Following directions to do physical and tabletop tasks, like hopping on one foot and pointing to your nose and making a pattern like my pattern with your blocks.
  • Motor skills including ability to use a pencil and scissors
  • Knowledge of common preschool material like letters, numbers, and colors.
  • Behavioral observations like whether the child separates easily from a parent, is friendly or shy, or is impulsive about touching the assessment materials

What happens if my kid isn’t good at that stuff?

As long as your child meet the age requirements for kindergarten and is in the right neighborhood for the school they’re attending, the school cannot turn them away. There’s no such thing as failing a kindergarten screening.

Teachers use the information they gain from kindergarten screenings to plan strategic groups for different skills. For example, a teacher might have a whole group of entering kindergartners who don’t know all their letter sounds and she might plan to work with those students more frequently until they master the skill. Sometimes other experts come in to work with groups in the classroom, like occupational therapists or speech therapists, and they may pay special attention to a group who’s having trouble with a particular skill, like making a certain speech sound or using scissors.

In some cases, teachers might note significant concerns about a child’s development. Often, these are children who we already know needed extra help with speech and language or motor skills as young children. They might have had early intervention services or they might have been seeing a therapist privately before starting school. It’s still helpful for teachers to see these kids in action in the screening environment and get a perspective on what they might need when school starts. In other cases, teachers may have concerns about a student who has not been identified previously. Teachers use information they get from the kindergarten screening to make a note of who to keep a closer eye on as school begins so that they can provide extra support, gather more information, and communicate with the parents as soon as possible about any concerns they have.

Will I find out how my child did at kindergarten screening?

This depends on the school. In some schools, parents get a written report that gives them scores for the kindergarten screening tool that the school uses. In other places, parents might get a more generic letter that states that their child participated and no concerns were noted. You may also get follow-up communication that your child has been selected for short-term extra help with a professional in the school, or that the school would like to talk about some things they noticed or recommend further testing. If you have questions about any of these communications, it is a great idea to get in touch with the person who sent you the letter or with the child’s teacher to find out more about what they are noticing with your child as he or she starts school.

While the process of sending children’s kindergarten screening can cause a lot of anxiety for parents, please remember that the purpose of the whole process is to get your child off to a good start in kindergarten and make sure they have the tools they need to succeed there. Everything that teachers ask or do during the screening process serves that purpose. Teachers want kids to have a good experience with the screening and we want them to enter kindergarten feeling confident and excited about all the things they will learn!

How to use Quizlet to study

What if I told you the best way to study material was to hand write your own flashcards?

Yeah, I’m not making flashcards for every term in every test either so I know you’re probably thinking, “OK, if that’s the best way to study, is there a second best way I can try?”

Maybe! Although there are benefits to hand writing your own notes and flashcards for studying, because it helps you process and learn information both when you write them and when you read and study them, creating your own flashcards can be a daunting process. When you have a lot of material to learn, you might avoid preparing for a test because it is too overwhelming.

That’s where I think Quizlet can be a great resource. First, you need to find the study material that fits your exam on Quizlet. Luckily, thousands of students and teachers have come before you and have created study sets for almost any academic knowledge topic I have searched for. Even better, often kids from your own school or your own teacher will have created study sets for you and your classmates. This is best because it will follow closely the way your teacher teaches.

Once you find a set of cards that matches what you need to learn, you can copy them to your own new list. This is a good option because then you can add cards or add more information to cards in a way that helps you study, based on the study guide or other information you’ve been given.

Click the copy button to make your own copy of a pre-made set of cards so you can edit them

Often, students say they study by reading through the cards. This is a good start to studying, but it is not enough when learning new material. Flipping through flashcards is too passive and creates the false belief that you understand things that have passed in front of your reading eyes. While reading the flashcards maybe enough to make the material familiar to you, really mastering it requires a more active process.

Luckily, Quizlet has many features that help you interact with the cards in a more productive way.

Quizlet’s Learn feature

If you’re sitting down with a set of material for the first time, you might want to use Quizlet Learn feature. With the learn feature, you are looking at a small set of cards to begin with and choosing the correct answer in a multiple-choice format. You will get feedback about which ones you get right and which ones you get wrong and the system keeps track of how many terms you have got cracked. After you get the item correct in multiple choice format, the next time you see it will be in a fill in the blank format. This takes the demand on your memory from recognition to explicit expression of the answer. This explicit, or declarative, memory is harder to achieve than just the recognition memory. So you’ll have to go through the cards more than one time to get to that level.

Other ways to use Quizlet

For some sets of material, or some students, the learn feature might not be the way you like to study. Instead, click through the deck of cards, saying the answer to yourself before you flip over to see the material on the back, and star any cards that you do not get right.

On your next pass through the cards, you can study only the starred cards. using the stars, you can set up a variation of the spaced repetition system that is so helpful for studying and memorizing new material. Quizlet is not really designed to sort cards into categories based on how well you know the material, but you can use the Stars to roughly approximate this system.

Create your own

There are so many card sets available on Quizlet that you might not need to make your own cards. But maybe you should! One benefit of making flashcards is that you have to think about and organize the information in your brain before you can put them on cards. You can type the information into a document and then upload it to Quizlet or type it right into the card maker. Be sure not to cram too much information onto your cards and write them in a way that you can study either the front or the back and remember what is on the other side.

Print them out

I’m not a person who usually prefers paper. I tend to use digital forms for documents, notes, communication, and anything else that I can get in digital form. People will say do you want me to make a copy of that for you? And I’ll say oh no I’ll just lose it.

But sometimes, there’s no substitute for having a physical reminder in your hand to study from. I was studying for a big exam a couple years ago and a friend who was studying for the same exam printed out a set of cards from Quizlet and gave me a copy. I cut them apart and studied them and there was definitely something satisfying about seeing the pile of cards that I knew growing while the cards that I was still studying were part of a smaller and smaller pile.

Don’t let the idea of writing out flashcards for every fact you are studying stop you from using flashcards to study! Find the info you need on Quizlet or make your own. Study on your computer or put the app on your phone to study on the go! You’re going to nail this test!

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Making your own flashcards is best, but Quizlet is a great shortcut