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Get Ready for Summer! Ideas for Teachers to Share with Families

Parent Engagement

Get Ready for Summer! Ideas for Teachers to Share with Families

Reading Rockets has packed a “virtual beach bag” of activities for teachers to help families get ready for summer and to launch students to fun, enriching summertime experiences. Educators will find materials to download and distribute as well as ideas and resources to offer to students and parents to help ensure summer learning gain rather than loss.

On this page:

The school bell may stop ringing, but summer is a great time for all kinds of learning opportunities for kids. Reading Rockets has packed a bag full of activities for teachers to help families get ready for summer and to launch students to fun, enriching summertime experiences.

Ideas for active summer learning

Offer recommendations for active learning experiences

Check with your local department of parks and recreation about camps and other activities. Find out what exhibits, events, or concerts are happening in your town over the summer. Create a directory or calendar of local summer learning fun to share with your students and their families. (Be sure to note any costs involved.)

Encourage parents to build reading and writing into everyday activities

Some ideas to pass along: (1) watching TV with the sound off and closed captioning on, (2) reading directions for how to play a new game, or (3) helping with meals by writing up a grocery list, finding things in the grocery store, and reading the recipe aloud for mom or dad during cooking time. 

Summer trading cards

Kids can dive deeper into summer reading by exploring characters with the Trading Cards activity (opens in a new window) from ReadWriteThink, which provides students with the opportunity to expand their understanding of the reading by creating new storylines and characters. A nifty Trading Card interactive tool (opens in a new window) provides additional support.

Encourage writing

Give each of your students a stamped, addressed postcard so they can write to you about their summer adventures. Or recycle school notebooks and paper into summer journals or scrapbooks. Another way to engage young writers is to encourage your students to spend some time researching and writing community stories — not only does it build research and writing skills, but helps kids develop a deeper sense of place. Find more good summer writing ideas (opens in a new window) from Start with a Book: keep a nature journal, create a “poetree,” share a recipe, or keep a scrapbook of reviews of summer adventures.

Kids blog!

Arrange for a safe, closed community so that your students can blog over the summer. Edublogs (opens in a new window) and Fanschool (opens in a new window) offer teachers and students free blog space and appropriate security. 

Be an active citizen

Kids who participate in community service activities gain not only new skills but self-confidence and self-esteem. Help them zoom into action! This Kids in Action (opens in a new window) guide (written by kids, for kids) from Youth Service America helps elementary-age children imagine and plan a service project. Volunteer Match (opens in a new window) offers a searchable database of volunteer options for kids. You’ll find other great ideas here: 10 Simple Ways Kids Can Volunteer in Their Communities and Make a Difference (opens in a new window).

CitizenKid (opens in a new window) is a collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens. The U.S. Department of Education published Helping Your Child Become a Responsible Citizen (opens in a new window) with activities for elementary school kids.

Our democracy: a book-based exploration of civics

On our sister site, Start with a Book, you’ll find our civics and social justice-related guide to learning about our government, voting, voting rights, and active citizenship. Our Democracy (opens in a new window)

Read about your world

Newsela (opens in a new window) builds nonfiction literacy and awareness of world events by providing access to hundreds of fresh news articles (you can filter by grade). Other good sources of quality nonfiction include Time for Kids (opens in a new window) online and many children’s magazines offered by Cricket Media, National Geographic, and other publishers.

The bloggers on The Uncommon Corps (opens in a new window) are enthusiastic champions of nonfiction literature for kids and young adults, and offer many ideas for integrating nonfiction into your reading diet. For more book ideas to share with parents, check out the Orbis Pictus Award (opens in a new window) winners — outstanding nonfiction for children, presented by the National Council of Teachers of English. Share these tip sheets with parents (available in English and Spanish): Getting the Most Out of Nonfiction Reading Time and How to Read Nonfiction Text (opens in a new window). And don’t forget to check out our Nonfiction for Kids section.

Get into geocaching

Everyone loves a scavenger hunt! Get in on the latest outdoor craze with geocaching, where families search for hidden “caches” or containers using handheld GPS tools (or a GPS app on your smart phone). Try a variation on geocaching called earthcaching where you seek out and learn about unique geologic features. Find more details about geocaching plus links to geocaching websites in this article from the School Family website, Geocaching 101: Family Fun for All, in Every Season (opens in a new window). Or follow one young family on their geocaching adventure: Beginner’s Guide to Geocaching with Kids (opens in a new window).

Watch a garden grow 

… and build research, reading, and writing skills with this science field journals project (opens in a new window) from ReadWriteThink. Children are encouraged to write questions and observations in a summer garden journal. Or check out the Kids Gardening website (opens in a new window) for lots of great ideas and resources for family (and school) gardening. You can also browse the hands-on activities on our summer site, Start with a Book, in the section Nature: Our Green World (opens in a new window).

Make cool things

Find loads of hands-on activities at Start with a Book (opens in a new window). Just choose from one of 24 topics (art, music, dinosaurs, bugs, detectives, flight, sports, stars, planets and the night sky … and more) and start exploring.

Help parents plan ahead for fall

Work with the teachers a grade level above to develop a short list of what their new students have to look forward to when they return to school. For example, if rising third graders will be studying ancient cultures, suggest that parents check out educational TV, movies, or local museums that can provide valuable background information on that topic.

Start with a Book: Read. Explore. Learn!

collage of photos of kids engaged in active outdoor learning

Our companion website, Start with a Book (opens in a new window), offers 24 kid-friendly topics — like dinosaurs, detectives, stars, flight, and music — matched with great fiction and nonfiction books, hands-on activities, writing ideas, apps, and websites to deepen children’s learning.

Ideas for summer reading fun

Make sure kids have something to read during the summer

Put books into children’s hands! Sign up for the First Book Marketplace (opens in a new window) and gain access to award-winning new books for free and to deeply discounted new books and educational materials or find other national and local programs and organizations that can help.

Get your local public library to sign kids up for summer reading before school is out

Invite or ask your school librarian to coordinate a visit from the children’s librarian at the public library near the end of the school year. Ask them to talk about summer activities, educational videos, and audiobooks at the library and to distribute summer reading program materials.

Get to know your community public library better

Find out if your public library is part of the Collaborative Summer Library Program (opens in a new window), a grassroots effort to provide high-quality summer reading programs for kids. Colorín Colorado has tips for parents in English (opens in a new window) and in Spanish (opens in a new window) about visiting the local library. Or check out our top 9 reasons to rediscover your public library (opens in a new window).

Let parents and kids know about the free summer reading incentive programs

At Scholastic, you can take the Read-a-Palooza Summer Challenge (opens in a new window) — over the course of 18 weeks, kids can enter their summer reading minutes online, unlocking digital rewards as they complete weekly reading challenges; and access book excerpts, videos, and other summer-exclusive content. Sign up for Pizza Hut’s BOOK IT! summer reading program (opens in a new window), where you’ll receive weekly emails with reading activities for kids. 

Check your local library for more free kids summer reading programs with activities and incentives for all ages. Most libraries also have story times and other reading-themed activities.

Help kids build math and science skills over the summer

Share our Literacy in the Sciences series with families. Each one-page tip sheet (in English and Spanish) suggests easy hands-on activities as well as fiction and nonfiction books to extend the learning. In this section you’ll also find links to great science websites for kids, blogs about children’s science books, and links to PBS KIDS science programs and activities.

Encourage parents to start a neighborhood book club with other families

Book clubs can be a great way to keep the summer learning social and low-key. Warmer weather can inspire some not-so-run-of-the-mill meeting places, too: a tent or picnic blanket in the backyard. If the book club catches on, it’s something to continue throughout the school year. 

Listening is learning, too! 

Suggest to parents that they set up a summer listening program. Listening is an engaging way to learn, and many children love listening to books, music, stage plays, comedy routines, and other works. Point out background sounds, such as the way the peppy tune on a sound track adds fun and humor to an adventure tale. Learning to listen is particularly helpful to children with learning disabilities. If your kids love audiobooks, check out Our Favorite Audiobooks, and find even more recommendations at Book Finder.

Online activities for families

Share examples of good interactive educational websites that parents and young kids can explore together

Here are some of our favorites:

Introduce your students and their families to stories from around the world

Let them know about the International Children’s Digital Library (opens in a new window), an amazing (and growing!) collection of international children’s books available to read online in their original languages. Big Universe (opens in a new window) is another online library of fiction and nonfiction books for kids 0-12. The site also offers adults and kids the chance to create and publish their own stories.

Suggest audio books as an alternative to print

Audiobooks are especially helpful for kids with learning disabilities that make reading a struggle. See our article, Listen and Learn with Audio Books (available in English and Spanish). You can now download stories to all kids of mobile devices, perfect for car rides or a lazy hot afternoon. AudibleKids (opens in a new window) has an extensive collection of downloadable books, and some of them are free through a partnership with RIF. Browse our list of Favorite Audiobooks and find even more titles on Book Finder.

For students with learning or vision disabilities 

Tell your parents about Learning Ally (opens in a new window) (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic), which provides free audio books for kids to listen over the summer. 

Print and share with parents

What to look for in a great summer program

Distribute a checklist for parents that provides tips on how to find a great summer program. This one, developed by the National Summer Learning Association, is a good basic resource.

Build background knowledge

Put an article about summer learning (opens in a new window) in your school or PTA newsletter.

Use books as a springboard for conversation, creativity, and acquiring new background knowledge

Share the Reading Rockets Reading Adventure Packs with your students’ families. These themed packs combine fiction and nonfiction books with simple, hands-on activities that kids and parents can do together.

Give parents a tool to help them promote healthy and balanced media use at home during the summer months

Common Sense Media (opens in a new window) offers advice for creating a realistic schedule, age-appropriate guidelines on TV time, first websites for young kids to use, handling violent media, and managing kids’ cell phone use. The PTA offers this helpful resource, PTA Connected: Take Charge of Your Digital Life (opens in a new window).

Help parents create a literacy friendly house for the summer (and all year round)

Take a look at our Growing Readers tip sheets (in English and Spanish). And dive into our Summer Reading section for more — including booklists, activities, tips, and more to keep kids reading and learning throughout the summer and all year long.

Offer reading reminders to parents with these tip sheets (opens in a new window) from Reading Rockets available in multiple languages.

Recommend good summer reads that match your students’ interests. You might start with our Summer Reading Booklists with suggestions for kids 0 to 12 years old.

You are welcome to print copies or republish materials for non-commercial use as long as credit is given to Reading Rockets and the author(s). For commercial use, please contact [email protected].