I am a firm believer children should read year round. Not just when school is in. Of course, many kids balk at the idea of summer reading lists. Some parents as well.

It’s important to continue reading during the summer to maintain fluency; I read children often lose so much of their skills over the summer, that most teachers spend a month re-teaching material learned the previous year! A month! So maybe your summer reading list is already in the trash. Fish it out. Or make a NEW list. But get into summer reading. For the benefit of your children!

Fortunately, my toddler doesn’t know any better. He thinks reading all summer is part of life. (It helps to have a captive audience). Here’s some fun reading activities for summer! Many aren’t just for toddlers or could be modified!

  1. Take a trip - Nothing says summer like a road trip. Instead of reading at home, visit the library and spend an hour reading there. Take a picnic lunch to a park and read under fleecy white clouds and blue skies. Hike up to the top of a local trail and read while perched on a rocky cleft! The change of scenery will good for toddlers and parents.
  2. Use funny voices - Find a great story like Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late and use a snarky tone while reading. My son already can distinguish when my tone of voice is silly and fun. I make reading enjoyable for him by changing up my voices.
  3. Act it out - Reading doesn’t have to be static. Read a story, or pick a familiar book, and prompt your toddler to mimic characters and actions! “What did the goose say?” “Show me how the backhoe digs!” “Let’s crawl like the Very Hungry Caterpillar!”
  4. Sing it out – Be silly and sing the entire story! Make up a tune. Sing key phrases over more than once, like a chorus.
  5. Play with the books – Sometimes it’s not all about actually reading words on the page. Let your toddler just handle books. Use sturdy board books, cloth books, plastic bath time books that can endure little ones’ clutches! Use old magazines prior to tossing them in the recycling bin. Encourage your toddler to “read with mommy and daddy” as you read, and be watchful for when a particular page or image catches their attention. Then you can explain or tell a little story about that picture before they are off and running again! These kinds of book activities reinforce pre-reading skills. I read that even babies that can’t see or hear benefit from “literacy rich” experiences.
  6. Read on the go – Don’t pass up opportunities to read signs and billboards to your child as you take a walk, drive to the store, or buy groceries. Teaching your child to recognize signs and symbols and their meanings is an important part of literacy. Pick familiar landmarks, like the restaurant you drive by every day, or a playground safety sign, even a map at a trail head where you hike!
  7. Make it – Create a book with pictures of your child’s favorite objects. Or let them pick pictures out of magazines. You can glue these into a composition notebook, spiral notebook, or even on index cards with a hole punched in the corner for a ring clip. Older children can write captions beneath the pictures to tell their own story.
  8. Meet an author – Seek out a local author or book reading. Having your children meet the person who actually wrote the story makes reading the book (or reading it again) much more compelling! (Better for older kids, but a fun activity to start even when young).
  9. Theme kits – Create (or seek one at your local library) a theme kit based on a favorite book. Compile your resources into a tote back, file folder or other organizer. Try pairing The Very Hungry Caterpillar with a nonfiction book on caterpillars, some colored circle stickers to stick together like a caterpillar, and perhaps a hand-made or store-bought puppet that matches. For older kids, this would still work, but might be more complex. If the child is reading a mystery, perhaps include a fingerprinting kit, magnifying glass, and clues journal. Kids will have fun putting the kits together. These are great for a long car ride/vacation trip – create one in secret and bust it out when the kids get bored! They’ll be thrilled to explore what you’ve put together. (My local library has dozens of these kits pre-made. Check with your library to save yourself some time!).
  10. Author study – If your child enjoys a particular book, chances are high they will enjoy other books by the same author. Collect a set of 3-5 books by the same author and read them consecutively. For older children you might discuss how the books and characters seemed the same or different, and discuss the author’s writing style.

I still love just cuddling up in our glider to read a book to my son from cover to cover. But there are so many ways to explore and encourage reading, that it’s fun to break from the norm once in a while and show kids that reading is really about so many important life skills. Want a great resource for reading to your child? Check out the many printable brochures available at author Jim Trelease’s website (which I think they should make a bit more searchable/user-friendly!).

What are creative ways you encourage reading with your children?

Have you checked out the rest of my 101 Toddler Activities?

Leave a Comment

  • Robin H July 13, 2011, 6:11 pm

    We try to visit the library every week too. This summer is the first time our local library is holding a summer reading program for infants – 4 year olds. I have both my 2 year old and 4 month old signed up!

  • T Rex Mom July 11, 2011, 4:20 pm

    We visit the library every week. At the moment, our designated day is Tuesday. We attend story time and then pick out books for the week. I have a display style book case that encourages the kids to read because the fronts of the books are visible. And the rule in our home is if a child brings us a book, we do our best to stop what we are doing, sit down, and read to them. They are both really into reading. And both kids LOVE reading on the toilet.

    • Robin H July 13, 2011, 6:12 pm

      My husband was potty trained with reading on the toilet. His memories are not good ones though… the book his mother chose for him was boring and he still complains about it! :)