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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Tsapakis

Summer Activities to Build Language and Reading Skills

Anyone else feel like they are limping into summer break this year, or is it just me? The past 18 months have been rough, and there is a growing concern that students are behind in various academic areas - most specifically reading.

The good news is, reading and language are so closely connected, that you can "kill two birds with one stone" and build them both together.

We have come up with some fun ways to pair learning with the typical summer activities you plan to do with your family on a daily basis!

Children of different ages will have different skills that you want to target. To make things easier on you, we broke-up our ideas into age groups and specific reading and/or language skills. Feel free to put your own spin on them!

Pre-Literacy (ages 1-4):

Pre-literacy is characterized by exposure. We want to expose children to as many sounds, types of print, visual imagery, and just plain spoken language during this stage. Rhyming is also especially important here - this is why so many children's book rhyme.


  • Go to the library

    • Have your child choose a theme for each week of summer, and check out books together that go along with your theme.

  • Narrate your day

    • Making coffee, getting dressed, packing a bag to go to a playdate - these are all chances to build your child's vocabulary and phonemic exposure. Narrate what you are doing, and they will store all those new words into their lexicon.

  • Use your senses

    • Eating ice cream, slicing a watermelon, taking a dip in the pool, or playing in the sand - we all do these things with our children in the summer. Encourage them to talk about their 5 senses and use adjectives (describing words) to tell you what they taste, see, smell, feel, and hear. (Although, we don't recommend eating sand, we all know they will anyway... this is a good place to introduce the vocabulary word gritty...)

Early Literacy (ages 5-8):

The early literacy stage is when children develop an understanding of letter-sound relationships, and spoken word-printed word relationships. Children begin to sound-out words and memorize high frequency words such as: the, and, is, some, done, through, etc...


  • Go for a drive

    • Have your child look around while driving to find familiar words on signs and businesses.

  • Have a lemonade (or sweet tea!) stand

    • Help your child set-up a lemonade stand. Help them sound out words to write on signs and decorate them.

  • Find a pen pal

    • Does your child have a cousin or friend they do not often see? Start a pen pal relationship so they are practicing reading and spelling in a fun, non-stressful way.

    • If younger children want (demand?) to be involved, you can have them draw pictures. When they're done, have them narrate the scene to you to write under their artwork. This keeps them involved while also helping them develop their expressive language skills!


Rhyming, alliteration (she sells seashells), onomatopoeias (POW!), and similes (they blew through like tornados) are great to use with any activity. For example, if you are eating ice cream with your child, you can incorporate these literacy elements into your conversations.

Developing Readers (ages 8-12):

Developing readers are becoming more fluent. They can read familiar stories and use context clues to decode unfamiliar words and vocabulary. These readers are beginning to move from "learning to read" to "reading to learn".


  • Write your own book

    • Encourage your child to write their own book with their own illustrations. You can even take turns building on the plot and picking up where the other left off.

  • Read a book together

    • Never stop reading aloud to your child! Choose a book, even one that is well above their reading level, and read a bit to them each evening or at another special time of day.

  • Play hangman

    • Use higher level vocabulary words as your words and discuss their meaning, provide opposites, and try to come up with other words that mean the same thing.

  • Write with sidewalk chalk

    • Create a maze, obstacle course, or workout with sidewalk chalk and write the instructions as you go. (The kids in my neighborhood seem to think everyone can do ten burpees mid-walk while simultaneously hopscotching. Challenge accepted.)

Fluent Readers (ages 12+):

Fluent readers are able to read a variety of texts, comprehend various viewpoints, and identify literary elements.


  • Let them choose their reading material

    • This means they can choose a short story, graphic novel, poetry book, comic book, newspaper, magazine or a good old-fashioned regular book.

    • Daily silent sustained reading in a genre of their choosing helps to foster a love of reading while continuing to expose them to the richness that comes from written language. Whatever strikes them as interesting, encourage it.

  • Encourage them to shake up genres and styles

    • Written language in science books is different than history books. Comics are different from poetry. Fiction is different from non-fiction. Exposure and practice with a variety of texts matters when it comes to building comprehension skills.

  • Listen to audiobooks

    • There are so many beautifully composed audiobooks these days! While the student may not be reading the words themselves, they are still being exposed the language. If characters have accents, unusual names, or live in foreign places, they are exposed to the proper pronunciation of these words, too.

    • Your local library will most likely have an app that they use for sharing audiobooks or digital books. You will use your library card ID to access their virtual library!


If you find that your child is struggling with their age-related suggestions, drop back a level or two. Language develops in stages and a solid foundation matters. Meet them where they're at and keep it fun!

If you have concerns over your child's language and/or reading development, you can always reach out to us with your questions and concerns!


You got this, parents - and we are always here to help!

-The LD Expert

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