You want your kids to have literacy gains rather than “summer learning loss,” right? But getting them to unplug from screens and reach for a book or journal on a consistent basis can often leave you feeling like a nag and a half. As a mom and teacher with 20 years of experience, I’m frequently asked, how do you hack the summer literacy slack in your three kids, without the nag?

The answer is YOU are their role-model. Take Jennifer Garner for example. When she’s not playing an action hero in films, she’s dressing up as one from the book, How to Train Your Dragon. Garner embodies the reading experience for her kids. For my kids, I took our embodied reading experiences to a new level of fun with something we call, the Reading Picnic.

If you’re like most parents, you read bedtime stories to your kids and wait till they’re down for the count before diving into your favorite adult books. With the Reading Picnic, everyone enjoys a book at their own level. Place children’s books in a basket, as well as the latest adult book from Oprah’s Book Club . . . and you’re off.

Yep, that’s right. This will be self-care for you too! Your kids need to know that reading is a lifelong habit and is meant to be cathartic. They will see you laugh out loud, gasp, or maybe even cry to books at your level. To determine your child’s reading level, why not try a reading level assessment and then grab those books. Cuddle on a blanket. This is family bonding for-the-ages!

Read for at least 20 minutes. Then discuss the favorite parts of your books over a light snack or perhaps fresh squeezed lemonade. Here’s where the writing comes in. You will write down the comments your kids say about their reading experience in a family journal, called Kid Quotes. My mom did this, and my kids love how I carried on the tradition. Its purpose is two-fold.

First, you are showing your kids that what they have to say matters. Second, you are modeling writing for pleasure. Kids are more likely to do what you do, not what you say. The Reading Picnic is your ticket on the literacy success train.

Next, you can show them how other children are readers and writers with a book from my summer reading list Be You Tiful Love, Sofia by Margaret O’Hair.            

Sofia Sanchez became a viral internet sensation on Facebook with over five-million hits in one weekend. Want to know how? She said this now famous quote, “Down syndrome isn’t scary, it’s so exciting!” This same quote was the basis of her book. Show your kids and explain how writing starts with what we say. Our words can become a story in our authentic writer’s voice.

As a professional writing teacher, I believe discovering our writer’s voice is so exciting! But it won’t happen overnight. Try the Reading Picnic for three weekends in a row or every other day of summer break. After seven days, you will notice your children deciding to read on their own and asking to write more comments in the Kid Quotes journal. Without prompting!

I also encourage you to add cute comments your kids say in general to the Kid Quotes journal. Sometimes your kids will want to read this during the Reading Picnic. If they can’t read it independently, you can read their quotes during the discussion part of the Reading Picnic. Now when your kids ask for screen time ask them, “How ‘bout a picnic instead!?”

Below are sample titles from my tried-and-true summer reading list, which I use to spawn independent reading and creative writing in kids.

  • Penguin’s Vacation by Salina Yoon
  • We the Kids by David Catrow
  • Ruby and Me by Shannon Hitchcock
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Questions? Find me at www.pocketfullofprsoies.com or let’s connect @pocketfullofprosies on Social Media.