Summer is a great time to encourage your reluctant special needs child to develop a love of reading. Children more easily find joy in reading when they can pursue their areas of personal interest and passion. The following tips unleash a child’s passion for literacy.
Summer book club (3rd through 8th grade)
Form a book club with several of your child’s friends. For each selection, let them choose from among three books that you’ve prescreened based on the group member’s interests. Meet every week to discuss the book. For younger children’s groups, some of the meeting can be devoted to hearing the book read aloud by a parent. When the group finishes the book, connect to the plot, theme or setting of the story with a follow up activity. Kids can take a trip to the same kind of place depicted in the book; for example, if there is a scene in the book at a roller skating rink, the group can go roller skating. If regional or ethnic cuisine is mentioned in the book, the group can cook dishes from that culture or visit a restaurant.
Make your own Mad Libs (2nd through 7th grade)
Write a story about a favorite movie, book, trip your child has taken, or an experience with a friend. Work with your child to turn the story into a mad lib. First make a copy of the story and then highlight one word in every sentence. Determine the part of speech of the words, or choose the part of speech beforehand and ask your child to locate those words in his writing. On another sheet of paper, write the part of speech of each highlighted word, one per line. Now you’re ready to play and laugh at the crazy story that results! Without looking at the story, think of a funny, scary, interesting or unusual word for each part of speech. Read the story out loud, substituting the fun words in place of the highlighted words.
Bookstore or library fieldtrip
Visit a book store or library to browse and read. Let children choose anything of interest. Allow them to browse on their own while you read something of interest to you. Let your child know beforehand that he needs to be ready to have a brief discussion about what has been read before you both leave. Let him buy or check out anything he is interested in. Follow this trip to the bookstore or library with a special treat such as a visit to the park or ice cream store.
Bring the book to life
After reading, help your child extend the magic of the book in any way interesting to him. Some really fun written activities include the following. Write or dictate a follow up sequel or next chapter (“what happens next”). Take on the role of reporter, develop several interview questions for one of the characters in the book, and answer the questions as the character would. Video your child as she pretends to be the chosen character. Artistic children can create a collage by drawing, painting or sculpting a t-shirt, banner, quilt, balloon, etc. to illustrate the themes, plot or characters of the book.
Share a love of reading with others
Give the t-shirt as a gift to someone. Ask your child to explain his work, and the book, to the recipient. Be sure to make the experience of sharing enjoyable and interactive, so your child associates reading and writing with sharing his opinions with others and receiving their positive feedback.
Talk to your child about the television shows, video games, movies and live entertainment she enjoys. Help her evaluate these experiences, form opinions, and justify those opinions with reasons or examples. Take her interest to the next level by showing her how to visit on-line sources such as blogs to write reviews or to send emails to actors to express herself and influence others.
Be a superstar editor for your child
It’s best to be an advocate and mentor instead of a critic! Resist the urge to “make it all perfect”. A better attitude for a parent is to help your child clearly communicate what she wants to say rather than strictly follow grammar and spelling conventions. The goal of this kind of parent and child interaction is to form a harmonious relationship as “literacy buddies” and to link your child’s growth in skills to increased self-confidence.
Dr. Kari Miller is a certified educational therapist and director of Miller Educational Excellence. She mentors special needs students to believe in their own success, achieve in school, and change their lives. She can be reached at email@example.com. Visit her website to learn more about tutoring for special needs children.