Forming a Backyard Reading Club can minimize the long hot days of summer and offer a natural way for kids to practice reading. A great way to get kids reading in a natural and fun way is to form a Backyard Reading Club. Get together with a few friends and neighbors and pick a day. It works best to invite children about the same age or grade for a group although you might want to split up groups with a friend or neighbor. Depending on the ages of the kids, decide on the amount of time and stick to it. Toddlers might fizzle out after half hour. Kids in K-2 can probably do an hour, and older kids will depend on the kids. Decide on once a week or more. Make a definite date right from the start and mark it on your calendar. Plan vacations and family activities around your club. This shows kids that reading is important.
Check reading levels of books using the Lexile chart to the right. You might know the Lexile level of your child based on school assessments. For a group of varied readers, choose one in the middle because you don’t want your poorer readers being embarrassed or frustrated and you don’t want you higher readers to be bored.
Don’t expect kids of any age to just sit and read for the whole time. I suggest you break it up to enhance their motivation and, what I call, “learning in disguise.” I will give some book suggestions and include a Read-aloud Guide for ideas. Please choose books that suit you and your children. Public librarians are in full swing for the summer and will also have some great age-appropriate books both as read-alouds, Don’t underestimate the value of Joke Books. There is a lot of hidden meaning in “getting” a joke. If your kids really don’t want to read a chapter book, let them read jokes and magazines too. Also, age-appropriate biographies and stories about cooking or baking might be fun. Think of the activities you can do!
Here is a Read-aloud Guide
Now, here’s the trick! Read, stop and talk during the reading, and find parts you want the kids to chime in with you. After reading and talking, plan an activity that coordinates with the book. Go in the pool, play in a sandbox, decorate premade cookies, play with Play-Dough. Blow bubbles. If you want, you can supply a simple snack and drink. Toddler groups should include a parent for each child. Sit in a circle and let the parents join in the fun. Before doing your activity, you could have a stack of board books for kids to touch and look at themselves for a few minutes to promote the joy of books.
Here is another Read-aloud Guide.
With the other parents involved, you might want to take the kids on a Field Trip as an extension of the story theme – a museum, the beach, a Nature reserve, the local harbor, a local zoo, an ice cream shop. Make it fun but set your time ahead. Perhaps, 45 minutes for reading and the activity and an hour for the trip. You decide ahead of time with the other parents. By sticking to a schedule, you and the other parents know how to schedule the summer days for family and other activities. If older kids go to camp, have a Supper Club or meet in the early evening.
Want to be really daring? Find books about Nature and Camping. Have your club meetings in a pop-up tent in the backyard lit with camp lanterns. Let the kids read with flashlights. Have them each bring a pillow for comfy reading. What other ideas can you think of?
Middle School and Above
Do you have a mix of kids in your neighborhood or circle of friends? Ask the older ones to pair up with the younger ones and read to them and share in the activities.
We Reading Specialists as well as librarians and teachers always tell kids to read over the summer. Public libraries and some local colleges offer wonderful summer reading programs. But if you host a Backyard Book Club, you show your kids how much fun reading can be done at home. I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. Contact me any time to ask questions and tell me about your Backyard Book Club success. I’d love to see pictures of your reading nooks, caves, and corners. “Happy Reading!”