Dear Teacher

Encourage reading through play; what a good summer program looks like.

© Maria Zoroyan |

Encourage Reading through Play

I’d like some fun suggestions on ways to encourage my young child to read. 

Playing with your child can be fun, and it’s one of the most important ways you can encourage his development. As your child’s first teacher, you are helping him develop literacy and social skills. You don’t need expensive toys, just your imagination and a willingness to play.
A recent study of 1- to 2-year-olds found that those who played with blocks with their parents for 20 minutes a day scored 15 percent higher on language-development tests and were 80 percent less likely to watch television. Letters and words are made up of shapes. The more a child plays with the shapes found in blocks, play dough, and other materials, the better able he or she will be to understand the shapes of letters and words. Below are some activities and book titles to get you started:

Cereal Box Blocks

Use empty cereal and food boxes by stuffing them with newspaper and taping the flaps closed. Line them up like dominoes to knock down or build a tower. Talk about the pictures and letters on the boxes. Make up a story.
Book pairing: Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

Let’s Go Shopping

Use those empty food boxes to set up a grocery store with children who are ready for pretend play. Get shopping bags or baskets, play money, and a shoebox for a cash register. Make a shopping list with your child. Take turns being the cashier or customer.
Book pairing: Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell

Edible Play Dough

Mix one part flour, two parts oatmeal, and one part water in a bowl. Give your child a small bit of dough to explore. Add some utensils, measuring spoons, cups, bowls, and jar lids. Use cookie cutters to make shapes or shape them by hand.
    Book pairing: Clay Boy by Mirra Ginsburg, Joseph A. Smith, illustrator


What a Good Summer Program Looks Like

I have my kids enrolled in a variety of summer programs to help them keep learning. How can I  be sure they are benefitting?

All educators will applaud your efforts to keep your children involved in learning activities this summer. The Summer Matters campaign ( has highlighted the following 10 ways for you to know if your children are in a great summer learning program. If your children are in a quality program, you should see:

•     Kids who are happy and engaged.
•     Kids who feel safe.
•     Kids learning by doing.
•     Kids being creative.
•     Kids showing off their learning.
•     Kids engaged in a wide array of meaningful activities (the arts, sports, science, service) that are purposeful about learning, complement (but don’t repeat)  school-day learning, and leverage community, city, and school district resources (nonprofits, parks, libraries, museums, and universities).
•     Staff who are positive and involved.
•     Staff who welcome parents.
•     Staff with a summer camp spirit.

Other enriching summer activities can include:
•     Reading to your children or encouraging them to read books recommended by their teacher or local library. Sign up for the library’s Summer Reading Program, which offers incentives for summer reading.
•     Visiting local libraries, parks, museums, and community centers.
•     Playing fun math and word games.
•     Turning off the TV and limiting screen time. Get outside for exercise instead.
Reprinted with permission from

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