Despite the best of intentions, reading and writing often take a back seat to other activities over the summer—speech-language pathologists working in schools often see a literacy lag as students return to the classroom.
Below are 10 days’ worth of easy activities that can be used to help refresh a child’s verbal and reading/writing skills, get them primed for learning, and build their excitement for the start of the new school year.
Day 10: Backpack Scavenger Hunt.
Give your child five to 10 items to find around the house that are on their school supply list. Can they mark off the ones they’ve found? Can they make a new list of things that are still needed? Creating lists is a great way to get back into writing.
Day 9: Favorite Summer Book.
Ask your child to select a favorite book that they read over the summer. Discuss the book with them, and then have them draw a picture and write three to five sentences about it to let others know why they liked it. Do the sentences go together? Is your child able to persuade with what they’ve written?
Day 8: First-Day-of-School Clothes.
Talk with your child about what they want to wear on the first day of school. Compare/contrast what they wore last year with what they’d like to wear this year. Talk about same/different sizes, color preferences and dressy/casual styles. Being able to compare and contrast are important language skills!
Day 7: School Visit or Drive-By.
Take your child for a visit to school, or drive by to discuss who might be their teacher, where their classroom will be and the important places in their school (such as the library, cafeteria, office, etc.). Can they explain where these places are in the school? Describing where something is located and what it looks like are memory tools your child will need at school.
Day 6: Backpack Shopping.
If it’s time for a new backpack, ask your child to describe what they are looking for in a new backpack. Is there a particular character, color and size that they want? Can they draw their desired backpack or list the special features they’re interested in?
Day 5: Favorite Summer Memory.
This topic is often discussed and/or written about during the first few weeks of school. Give your child a head start by discussing a few options that they could use. Practice drawing a picture or writing about it at home so they’ll feel confident when doing so at school.
Day 4: Back-to-School Books.
With your child, read some books in which the characters are dealing with going to school. This gives you an opportunity to bring up possible feelings, such as fears or concerns that your child may be experiencing, so that you can talk about these feelings and help them work through them.
Day 3: Photo Archive.
Get out photos or class pictures from last year and talk about friends your child might reconnect with this year. Talk about age-appropriate qualities to look for in a good friend and how to be a good friend to others. Being a good listener, understanding another person’s perspective and maintaining a topic during conversation are all important social language skills.
Day 2: Pretend School.
With a younger child, you can engage in pretend play about being at school. Let your child be the teacher and give you instructions. Can they tell you where to find materials or instruct you about what to do in a way that you understand what they want? With an older child, take turns giving each other tasks like a teacher would. Have them practice retelling a story or an event. Can you visualize what they’re telling you?
Day 1: Pep Talk.
Let your child know that you believe in them and will be by their side to help and encourage them through the school year. Be your child’s biggest cheerleader! Give them the tools to start the school year with confidence.
If you have concerns about your child’s reading, writing or communication skills, talk to your school’s speech-language pathologist. Learn more about communication and literacy milestones by age/grade at ASHA.org. A searchable database of certified speech-language pathologists is also available at ASHA.org/ProFind.
Gail J. Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP, is the 2017 President of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Stacey Ellison Glasgow, MA, CCC-SLP, is Associate Director, School Services of ASHA.