Last year, Kindergarten was a great year for A. She really learned a lot and grew in her knowledge and skills. At the start of the year she could recognize a few sight words and write all of her letters and some words, but by the end of the year she was reading short simple books and writing three sentence paragraphs. She loved being at school and really thrived in the structured environment.
But at home she was hesitant to do things on her own. She is a surely a first born, she gets a lot of satisfaction from being able to do things well. But the down side to that is she doesn't like doing things she's not already good at and will shy away from trying a new thing because she hasn't perfected it yet. This of course, is a hindrance to her learning because you have to try and fail in order to learn new things.
Last year at the end of the school year A's teacher told us that a lot of kids loose their reading skills over the summer because they don't get much practice when they aren't in school. I wanted her to practice her reading but I knew it would be pulling teeth to make her read one or two books a day. I could find all kinds of books she might like to read but she just wasn't motivated to read them on her own because, (whiny voice) "It takes too long! Why don't YOU just read it to me?"
So, I knew she would need some kind of incentive to motivate her. I had bought a big pack of Squinkies in the spring and put some of them in her Easter basket and had about 30 left over. So I decided I would give her one Squinkie each time she read 5 books. She LOVED that idea and was so excited about it! She tore through books and I started to wonder if I'd have enough Squinkies to last the whole summer! So I added a few things like for 10 books she could get $1 and 5 books she could earn an extra 30 minutes of media time (computer, videos, leapster).
G was jealous and wanted a reading program too! We'd seen him memorize some of his LeapFrog Tag books like Green Eggs and Ham and we were impressed with how he was almost reading as well as Amelia was. In fact, that was another motivator for A, she didn't want her brother to bypass her or read better than she could! So G got his own reading program too and he got to buy a little Disney Cars car for every 15 books he read.
They loved earning points and writing down the books they read. We kept track of all of them and over the whole summer Amelia read around 60 books and Grant read around 50 books. By mid-summer I added ways that they could earn points that would count for reading one book. A wanted to have me print out math worksheets so that she could do those and earn a point. G needed to practice his letters and I'd gotten him a workbook to trace and work on letters, so he got a point for each letter sheet he completed. I started giving them points for helping clean up the yard or extra points for longer books. They were eating it up and were sad when summer ended and all the Squinkies had been earned.
Around February of this year they started asking if we were going to do a summer reading program again. I told them we would but it would be different since they were older. Since then we haven't gone a week without them asking/bugging me about the summer reading program. 'What kind of toys will we get?' 'How many books do we have to read to get a Zooble? (that's the 2012 toy with A)' and the question I get asked most often 'Can we start the summer reading program NOW?' or 'It's not fair that G gets out of school 4 days before I do and he is going to get a head start on the summer reading program!'
A has gotten the hang of reading and has found a few book series she really likes and I don't have to motivate her to read like I did last year, she's doing it on her own now for pleasure. She's devouring her favorite chapter books like, 'Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew' or 'A to Z Mysteries'. It's kind of sad that she's grown out of some of the shorter chapter books she used to love like 'Young Cam Jansen'.
So this year's program will be a little different, and I like being able to customize things for their individual needs. This year A loves to read but she really hates writing and she needs more practice in that. So in order to earn a point she's going to have to read a book and then write a little bit about it. She can also earn a point by doing a report on something, so if we go on a field trip or trip she can write about it and get a point. We are going to buy a special notebook for her to have to write her reports in.
I've been collecting little toys for both of them here and there and they cost me different amounts so I'm going to make them worth different point values. I know they are going to love learning this summer!