Summer may be a recess from academic rigors, but it's no time for your children to take a break from written words. The following are 10 creative ways to keep kids reading and writing all summer long:

  1. Ignite his interest. One key to sparking children's interests in reading is to find out what subjects and genres they enjoy. If your child likes videogames, get a book on programming. If it's sports or mysteries, find authors who specialize in those areas. Carry this over to writing by encouraging your child to create a new sport. What would the rules be? Or a new dinosaur breed - what would its name be and what would it eat? If your child likes mysteries, suggest he write an alternative ending to a story he has just read.

  2. A family affair. Don't assume your kids are motivated to read by themselves. Rally their interest in reading by reading to them. Children like to hear about heroes older than they are, but those books may be above their reading level. If your child is old enough, read a few paragraphs, pages or a chapter. Then have him read to you.

  3. Box up boredom. Turn those books into box projects. After your child reads a book, encourage him to create a diorama of his favorite character's room, home or a scene where the story takes place. He could also make an identity box filled with a character's belonging - for example, what things would he put in his box after reading "Encyclopedia Brown"? A larger box makes a great puppet stage. Have your child make simple puppets from various materials and create a box stage to reenact the story.

  4. Awesome authors. Pick an author your child enjoys, and have him read several of his books to compare and contrast themes and characters. Take this one step further by researching the author's life too. This will give your child insight on where the story and character ideas originated, such as how a character may have taken on the attributes of someone the author knew. Also, many authors have websites where kids can email questions and get responses, and some even have extension activities for their books.

  5. Newspaper novelties. Reading the newspaper seems like such an adult thing to do, but with a little creativity it can be a non-threatening experience. Give your preschooler a crayon and have him circle certain letters in headlines - all the "A's," for example. If he knows the entire alphabet, he can circle all 26 letters in order. Your older child may enjoy cutting out five unrelated pictures and creating a story that somehow connects them all. Don't forget to read articles that take in your child's interests.

  6. Audio adventures. If you don't have a lot of time to sit down and read to your child, there are a number of audio books in all different genres you can listen to in the car together. As you do, stop at a cliffhanger and speculate about what is going to happen next. This keeps the family dialogue going and makes it a shared endeavor.

  7. Discovery diary. The writing process doesn't have to be long to be fruitful, but it does need to be fun. Throughout the summer encourage your child to log summer discoveries in a journal. As you take trips to various places such as museums or science centers, have him write a little bit about what he learned. A discovery made while at the store or a new food he tried at the restaurant can be a journal entry, too. By summer's end he will have logged a storehouse of new adventures.

  8. Wanna piggyback? One really popular type of poetry is called "Piggyback Poetry." This is where the author has taken a well-known song or poem, such as "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and translated it into something new such as, "Take Me Out of the Bathtub," using the same rhythm and cadence. Have your child pick out a song or poem he enjoys and write his own piggyback. Novel paper, pens and pencils may inspire him to embellish his work and create a keepsake.

  9. Acting adventures. Have your child write an adventure based on a book he's just read and use the same characters. Or have him make up his own character - one where he is projected into the story. How will he conduct himself in the adventure? Then create a backyard theater with friends or siblings and put on a production. Another idea is to do a spoof of a movie or TV show he is familiar with - something silly and fun. Bring out the video recorder so he can see the finished project.

  10. Tap into trips. If you're going on vacation, have your child help plan the trip. Pick up a few travel books, and let him research sites he would like to see. Also look for materials that talk about the destination's history. Some places, such as Williamsburg, VA, may even have fiction stories associated with them and would be a timely read. If you're staying local, challenge your child to use a trip to a nearby theme park to research and compare those roller coasters with others around the country. Or check out what is happening at local museums, science centers or live theatres. Many of these topics can be used as springboards for more reading and learning.


Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children.