Can Families Do to Keep Children Reading During the Summer?
Author: Laura J. Colker, Ed. D.
Source: Reading Is
As children's first and most
important teachers, families have a major role to play in motivating children
to read during the summer months. There are many strategies families might
employ to encourage summertime reading. Here are tips offered by Reading Is
- Combine activities with books.
Summer leaves lots of time for kids to enjoy fun activities, such as going
to the park, seeing a movie, or going to the beach. Why not also encourage
them to read a book about the activity? If you're going to a baseball
game, suggest your child read a book about a favorite player beforehand.
In the car or over a hot dog, you'll have lots of time to talk about the
book and the game.
- Visit the library.
If your child doesn't have a library card, summer is a great time to sign
up. In addition to a wide selection of books to borrow, many libraries
have fun, child-friendly summer reading programs.
- Lead by example.
Read the newspaper at breakfast, pick up a magazine at the doctor's
office, and stuff a paperback in your beach bag. If kids see the adults
around them reading often, they will understand that literature can be a
fun and important part of their summer days.
- Talk it up.
Talking with your kids about what you have read also lets them know that
reading is an important part of your life. Tell them why you liked a book,
what you learned from it, or how it helped
you-soon they might start doing the same.
- Help kids find time to read.
Summer camp, music lessons, baseball games, and videos are all fun things
kids like to do during the summer. However, by the end of the day, children
may be too tired to pick up a book. When planning summer activities with
children, remember to leave some time in their schedules for reading. Some
convenient times may be before bedtime or over breakfast.
- Relax the rules for summer.
During the school year, children have busy schedules and often have
required reading for classes. Summer is a time when children can read
what, when, and how they please. Don't set daily minute requirements or
determine the number of pages they should read. Instead, make sure they
pick up books for fun and help find ways for them to choose to read on
their own. You may even want to make bedtime a little bit later if you
find that your child can't put down a book.
- Have plenty of reading material around.
Storybooks aren't the only thing that kids can read for fun. Be sure to
have newspapers, magazines, and informational material on hand that might
spark the interest of a young reader.
- Use books to break the boredom.
Without the regular school regimen, adults and kids need more activities
to fill the hours. Books that teach kids how to make or do something are a
great way to get kids reading and keep them occupied. Don't forget to take
your kids' favorite reading series along on long road trips. Use books to
break the boredom. Use books to break the boredom.
- Read aloud with kids.
Take your children to see a local storyteller or be one yourself. The
summer months leave extra time for enthusiastic read-alouds
with children, no matter what their age. Don't forget to improvise
different voices or wear a silly hat to make the story that much more
The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities has developed
its own list of tips for parents to make summer reading enjoyable, particularly
for children with learning disabilities. Like RIF's suggestions, CCLD's
recommendations include reading aloud, setting a good example, and going to the
library regularly. In addition, they have a few other helpful ideas:
- Read the same book your child is reading and discuss
it. This is a great way to use
books as a bonding tool.
- Let kids choose what they want to read, and don't turn
your nose up at popular fiction.
A bad attitude toward certain books will only discourage the reading
- Buy books on tape, especially for a child with a
Listen to tapes in the car, or turn off the TV and have the family listen
to them together.
- Subscribe, in your child's name, to magazines like
Sports Illustrated for Kids, Highlights for Children, or National
Geographic Kids. Encourage older children to
read the newspaper and current events magazines, in order to keep up the
reading habit over the summer and develop vocabulary. Ask them what they
think about what they've read, and listen to what they say.
- Ease disappointment over summer separation from a
favorite school friend by encouraging them to become pen pals. Present both children with postcards or envelopes that
are already addressed and stamped. If both children have access to the
Internet, e-mail is another option.
- Make trips a way to encourage reading by reading aloud
traffic signs, billboards, and notices.
Show your children how to read a map, and once you are on the road, let
them take turns being the navigator.
- Encourage children to keep a summer scrapbook. Tape in souvenirs of your family's summer activities,
postcards, ticket stubs, photos, etc. Have your children write the
captions and read them aloud as you look at the book together.
Other suggestions for encouraging
summer reading include:
- Setting aside a family bookshelf for library books.
- Starting a mother/daughter or family book club.
- Making a "story pack" out of an old backpack.
Fill it with books for children or books to read aloud. Take the story
pack wherever you go to provide entertainment when children are tired or
- Writing a play together.
- Composing and singing songs together.
- Sharing parents' childhood favorite books with
- Creating an author list to take to the library, so that
children don't just check out the books on the display shelves.
- Reading things around the house other than books.
- Keeping a reading journal.
- Creating a reading festival by reading aloud several
books by one particular author.
- Using recipes to cook family favorites and treats.
- Reading maps while driving together or on vacation.
- Encouraging children to read the book on which their
favorite movies are based.
- Consulting books to enhance children's favorite
activities and interests. For example, using Disney's FamilyFun
Crafts: 500 Creative Activities For You and Your
Kids by Deanna F. Cook or Great Big Book of Children's Games by
Debra Wise to introduce things children like to do.
To put this all together, experts
feel that reading shouldn't be imposed on children. Rather than trying to sneak
reading into children's activities, it's best to broach the subject directly.
Lynne Vallone of Texas A&M University advises
parents to "Ask [children] what goals they have for reading this summer.
The parent and child can together set goals, and then the parent can reward the
child for reaching those goals."
Vallone believes the best rewards are ones connected to the reading
project. She suggests setting aside a small budget for children to buy books.
Having books in the home shows children they are valued.
Another suggestion is for parents
and children to participate in activities that complement reading. If there is
access to a computer, children can write and submit online book reviews to
places such as RIF's
Reading Planet, Scholastic, Book Reviews by Kids.
Perhaps the most crucial part of
reading with children over the summer is locating books that will appeal to
children and motivate them to want to read. While this task may seem daunting,
there are numerous organizations and experts who have done an excellent job of
nominating books for summer reading. In fact, the Internet abounds with such
lists. To illustrate, running a search on Google of recommended summer reading
children unearthed 282,000 entries! Click
here for a sampling of sources for recommended reading
In addition to recommended reading
lists, another avenue for selecting titles is to look to the children's book
award winners for guidance. Click here for a list of websites that provide an overview of
award-winning children's books.
In addition to locating books of
interest, the second and equally important factor is to find books that are
appropriate to the child's reading level. Most booklists and publishers provide
age appropriate information on reading levels. Being unique individuals,
though, it's likely that many children's reading levels will be above or below
this estimated gauge. Parents ought to consult with their child's teacher
before summer begins to gain insight into appropriate reading levels. In
addition, parents can make use of a simple five finger exercise to determine if
a book is at an appropriate reading level. Ask a child to read aloud a page
from a book. Every time he stumbles or skips a word, have him put down a
finger. If all of a child's fingers are down by the end of the page, this book
is probably too difficult. If the child wants to read it, though, turn this
into a shared reading experience. Challenges are one of the great joys of
summertime reading, since there's no grading attached. Motivation is the key.
Publication Release: July 26, 2007