Write Away The Summer Slide!

A summer writer at work in his notebook!

Writing materials abound!  Big motivator!
When we think of the summer slide, reading immediately pops into our minds.  Children simply must read over the summer to maintain their skill levels (not to mention the many other benefits wide reading provides).  But, what about writing?  Can we 'write away' the summer slide?

Reading and writing have an extremely strong reciprocal relationship.  When we work on one, we strengthen the other.  Think about it: when a young child tries to spell an unknown word, she listens inside the word to hear the sounds (or 'segments the word into sounds') and connects those sounds with letters.  That's phonics (and phonological  awareness).  When a child 'sounds out' a word while reading, she connects the letter(s) (or chunks) she sees on the page back to the sounds then blends them together to make the word.  That's phonics, too.  There's much, much more to reading and writing than encoding, or spelling unknown words while writing, and decoding, or sounding out unknown words while reading.  For example, the more a child reads, the more he comes to understand how stories and informational texts are structured, the more he understands story language and the often more formal register of informational text, and the more he builds background knowledge which helps him comprehend what he's reading and informs his writing.  I could go on and on about the many ways reading and writing reinforce one another...!!!  As a teacher of 26 years, I've seen many children who struggle to read learn the skills they need to become successful through daily writing. 

This brings us back to the summer slide.  How can we get our children engaged in writing over the summer?  How can we excite them about the possibilities writing holds for them?  One way is to let them see what other kid-writers do during their break.  Visit this oh-so-valuable site: http://www.sharingournotebooks.amylv.com/.  Scroll through to see a plethora of writers' notebooks kept by both children and adults. Talk about what you see:  kids jotting notes about small things they notice throughout their day, sketching pictures and doodles, keeping lists of topics they'd like to write about, people adding pictures and jotting about them, sticky notes of inspiring quotes or ideas captured any place, any time, etc.  The writing you're seeing is informal, written for the purpose of capturing the moments, activities or thoughts one has so they can be revisited, kept, cherished.

The discussion of what you see, accompanied by the creation or purchase of a writing notebook (could just be a cheap spiral notebook or a journal of some kind), which your child then 'makes his own' (See Erin's cover here:  http://www.sharingournotebooks.amylv.com/2014/09/welcome-to-wny-young-writers-studio.html) may be enough to get him started.*  Another way to get the fires burning is to create a notebook of your own where you start to keep brief jottings about life events, thoughts, or wonderings.  The next step is to share your jottings with your child.  Read them, talk about them, value them--remember together, laugh together, wonder together over your notebook.  If you model excitement and interest for keeping the notebook, your child(ren) will catch the writing bug.

*Here are few examples from my son's current summer writer's notebook:
He was eager to write about this picture of a school event at year's end.  His class put on an opera.
Love this close-up of his cartoon!  He's getting his feelings out (another benefit of writing!).  He was frustrated by all of the singing going on in class after the opera was over.  He felt like he couldn't concentrate, so he brought earplugs to school for the last week! 

A key to success, that I've alluded to above, is taking the time to share.  Ask your child, "What are you writing there?  I'd love to have you share it with me!"  If your child chooses not to, that's okay, too.  But, the general idea is we write to voice, tease-out, play with and remember our thinking, so most of the time, writers DESIRE and NEED the opportunity to have their thoughts valued.  Share, share, share:  in the car (this is one of my son's favorite place to jot in his notebook), on the coach, on the porch, in bed before sleeping at night.  Make a copy of your child's notebook entry about watching birds at Aunt Sophie's house and send it to her (with your child's permission, of course).  Hopefully, Aunt Sophie will write back!

Sometimes adults are unsure how to respond to a child's writing.  Simple advice:  respond as you would to anything your child says (after all, writing is just thinking recorded on paper)--listen intently, ask questions, connect ("Oh, yeah, I remember that!").  And, don't worry his spelling, grammar or punctuation!  If he asks how to spell a word, that's fine, but keep the notebook a sacred place for imagining and collecting.  Keep your responses directed to the CONTENT of what he's written.  This will build the writing joy!

One other word of advice:  Keep the notebook handy--you never know when an idea for writing or a seed for a story will pop up.  I always have my notebook, and my son's, in my purse whenever we're out and about.  Funny, I stop to jot something and he'll ask for his notebook almost immediately!  If the notebook isn't handy, jot on anything:  a post-it, a napkin, anything!  Then you can glue it into your notebook.

To help you to "Write Away the Summer Slide!,"*  I've created some writer's notebook covers you might use and a quick list of the tips included in this post.  Hang the list on your refrigerator or somewhere else handy, to remind you of the tips and motivate you to keep the work in the notebook going.  I'm betting you and your child(ren) will LOVE this experience and want to continue it throughout the school year and for summers to come! 

Enjoy!  Janiel :)

Go here to download this freebie:  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Stop-the-SUMMER-SLIDE-with-WRITING-Tips-for-Keeping-Writers-Notebooks-1912399

NOW, as part of the Reading Crew's Kick-off for the Summer Blog-Party, hop on over for more great ideas at Looney's Literacy:  http://www.looneyslitblog.com/?p=1657



  1. Thank you! I love your Summer Writer's Notebook!

  2. My daughter loves, loves, loves to write, and I can't tell you how many journals we have floating around our house. You are right about how special they are. I think that is one reason she blogs now and uses it as an outlet too. She makes bucket lists and book lists. It's awesome!! Great post and tell Max I love his work!!

    1. Thanks, Carla! Great to hear about your little writer! Max will love your comment. I'll be reading and commenting through the posts, too, this weekend! So excited!

  3. Janiel,
    I love, love, love the idea of writing about real photos. I am going to do this with my two older sons. Right now, I have them writing simple lists (Collins Writing-Type 1), and they are enjoying them. This would be a great addition.
    That Literacy Blog

    1. Great! So very glad the post was helpful! Happy Writing! xxoo

  4. I love the writer's notebook for so many reasons, but mostly because it is so child-centered without too much structure that it squelch's the child's creativity. Thanks so much!


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