Summer is an ideal time to work on improving skills, but it is also equally important that our students have a much-needed break from the challenges associated with school, particularly after this year of virtual learning. Here are 10 tips to consider as you plan your child's summer activities.

parents and young children read together at home

Two years ago, I wrote this piece to help guide parents in making the most of summer therapy or tutoring. As we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, I am hopeful that this summer, our children and teens will be able to get back to some of those much needed summer activities. This is going to be especially important this year after many students have spent the entire school year engaged in virtual learning. Experiences beyond the screen have been few and far between. I am hopeful that kids can get out doing life, rather than just observing it.

We always want to avoid that infamous “summer slide” that many students can experience between school years, and which can be particularly adverse for our students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities. And, while summer is an ideal time to work on improving skills, it is also equally important that our students have a much-needed break from the challenges associated with school. They need time to “re-set.” I thought it would be a helpful reminder to offer 10 tips as you plan your child’s summer activities.

  1. Include your child in the discussions about summer. Not that he will necessarily make the final decisions, but he should feel that he has some say in the matter, particularly if your he is a tween or teen. Rather than putting forth one option, give some choices, all of which you think would be viable. For example, “You need to work on reading this summer. Would you rather go in the morning or the afternoon? Would you like the sessions to be 45 minutes or an hour?”
  2. Have your child engage in activities that incorporate her interests and strengths. You can read more on that here.
  3. If possible, schedule your child’s intervention program to be as intensive as possible. The research has clearly demonstrated that intensive and frequent language and literacy therapy is more effective than less frequent and less intensive therapy. For example, if you can afford 15 sessions of therapy over the course of the summer, schedule those sessions in intensive blocks of time (e.g., 3 weeks of 5 days/week or 3 days/week over 5 weeks).
  4. Think about making time for fun. For example, schedule some intervention sessions for a couple of weeks at the end of June/early July and then again in August before school starts or attend sessions in July and take August off.
  5. Be mindful when planning family activities and trips. These provide great opportunities to enhance your child’s word(i.e., vocabulary) and world (i.e., experiences in and with life) knowledge. One’s vocabulary (i.e., word knowledge) plays a huge role in learning to read when kids are younger. And, one’s world knowledge helps make better connections with newly learned information. The more we know about, the more we have to talk and write about.
  6. Employ some of the strategies that are taught to your child in your planning. Preview those parks, zoos, museums, cities, and areas that you might be traveling to this summer. Access prior knowledge by talking about what you already know about the topic. Predict what you might see, do, and learn. Review the activities upon completion. Did you do everything you’d planned? Did anything stand out as memorable?
  7. Keep a family journal, a blog, or a photo collage to help remember. How about a vlog? Let your child develop the script, shoot the footage, and edit the material.
  8. Think outside-the-box. As I tell my clients, flexible thinking is an important skill to have! Be flexible. Maybe what didn’t work in the past might work this year. If your child is tired of summer camps, maybe volunteering somewhere of interest might be just the ticket.
  9. Keep them reading! The single most important thing a student with dyslexia can do is read. Reading at or above grade level ensures continued exposure to grade-level vocabulary, complex syntactic and literary language forms, and information about the world. Audiobooks are key to accessing texts at or above grade level for many of our students with dyslexia. Encourage and foster “ear reading!”
  10. Create space for down-time. Let your child choose how she wants to spend some of her time this summer. And, importantly, whether it’s time spent at the swimming pool, on the tennis court, biking around town, or sitting and watching a good movie, allow yourself time with your child. Life is short—grab that coffee, tea, or lemonade, put your feet up together—and enjoy the gift of youth!

I am indebted to my colleague at 3LI, Dr. Lauren Katz, for her review and thoughtful comments.