As families head off for their holidays, I am frequently asked for advice on summer learning. Some of my students – especially those with imminent exams – will continue studying through the holidays, so that our Zoom sessions often have new and beautiful backdrops! International students may visit the UK for intensive tuition or summer camps, others will invite residential tutors to travel with them, and some may simply be enjoying a break at home.
One piece of advice, however, fits all when it comes to keeping up with learning during the holidays: read, as much and as widely as possible.
Reading is the single most important habit to nurture in our children: not only for the sake of their literacy skills, but also to build social and cultural awareness, to develop interest in the world around them and to benefit their overall wellbeing. Books stimulate creativity and imagination; they teach concentration and focus; they encourage quiet reflection and empathy; they widen our horizons in every possible sense.
A common misconception is that, after the age of eight or so, children should be left to their own devices with regards to their reading. Of course, choosing their own books and reading independently is essential, but so too is shared reading – whether with a parent, sibling, tutor or classmates at school. There is so much more to be gained from a book when discussing its themes, pointing out interesting vocabulary and phrases, critiquing the plot or predicting its resolution.
At school, this is known as guided reading and is a favourite with many of my students, who become utterly absorbed in the world of a book when it is shared with the rest of the class. We often replicate this in our tutoring sessions too, reading out loud to each other and discovering the twists and turns of the plot together. Even less keen readers quickly become engaged when the reading is shared.
This is something that parents can easily tap into at home, whether by reading to children, reading the same book in tandem and then discussing, or simply by taking an interest in a child’s current book: ask them to summarise the plot so far, to describe the main character, or to comment on the author’s style. Audiobooks, too, are great: listen to them in the car, during breakfast, while relaxing at home, and make storytelling (or non-fiction titles) a part of the daily routine.
For pupils entering Years 5 or 6, the 11+ or pre-tests may be at front of mind. I love books for this age group: they can be complex and clever, the language rich and ambitious, yet there is such freedom of plot and genre. It is in these novels where we find boy wizards, parallel worlds, criminal masterminds, evacuated children, escaped bears, underground cities and orphans sent to the Amazon.
Here are five of my recent favourites for this age group; I hope that pupils, and parents, will enjoy!
1) When the Sky Falls – Phil Earle
by Lauren Williams, Lauren Super Tutor