I recently wrote an article for my daughter's school website with tips for parents on how to encourage summer reading. I'm sharing a lightly edited version of that article here:
Do you want to encourage your children to read more this summer? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Let your kids choose what they want to read. Do you enjoy reading a fast-paced thriller when you're on an airplane, or a thick romance novel while you are sitting by the pool? Great! How would you feel if your spouse was badgering you to read something more intellectual, something that would help you to improve yourself in some way? You would most likely be resentful, and you might well turn to perusing Facebook on your phone instead. Just like adults, kids deserve, especially during the summer, to read what they enjoy. Please try to resist the urge to steer them towards classics, or books that you liked as a kid, or books that you think will give them a leg up in school in the fall. It's fine if they WANT to read those books, of course. You can certainly offer them as options. But let them choose.
- It's ok if what they choose is above or below their official "reading level". Summer reading is about enjoyment, not AR levels. If a book is too hard for them, they will probably stop. Even if a book seems too easy, there is probably something that they are getting out of it.
- It's also ok if what they want to read is not a traditional novel, but rather a fact-based almanac, book of comic strips, graphic novel, Minecraft how-to guide, or whatever. Reading is reading. It all counts.
- Re-reading is also reading. It is very common for kids to read the same book or the same series over and over again. This is not lazy. This is about building competence and enjoyment at the same time. I know adults who re-read Pride and Prejudice every couple of years. That's their choice, and your kids should have that option, too.
Choice is the number one thing that makes kids enjoy reading. If they enjoy reading, they will spend time doing it, and their reading skills will naturally (and painlessly) improve. The best thing parents can do is get out of the way and let the kids choose.
2. Make sure plenty of books and other reading materials are readily available. Buy books if you can. Subscribe to magazines. Go to the library every week and just spend time there, letting your children read whatever they like. Look online for the closest Little Free Library and make a visit. Go to garage sales. If your child becomes obsessed by a particular series, buy or borrow the next book, and the one after that. Keep books in your child's room, on the kitchen table, in the car, and in the bathroom. Take them with you on trips. Kids won't read them if they aren't handy. But if they have a spare moment with nothing to do and an interesting book is nearby, magic can happen.
3. Speaking of spare moments, make sure there are spare moments if you can. Kids who are busy with organized activities all day long and who are on their tablets all evening won't have a lot of time to read. Providing some unstructured time creates opportunities for reading. Limiting screen time is also important for many kids. Tablets tend to suck them in, and if you let them, they will spend all day watching videos or playing games. If you want them to spend time reading, it's necessary to pry the screens from their hands at least some of the time. It also helps if they sometimes see you put down your phone to read a book or a magazine.
Choice, access, and time are three key ingredients for a summer of reading. If you can provide all three to your kids, you will likely be pleased with the results. And you will be giving them a gift that can last a lifetime.
For more suggestions for parents on encouraging summer reading, this is an excellent recent post by Pernille Ripp, a teacher and advocate for kids' enjoyment of books: .
If you need book ideas for your kids this summer, here are a few suggestions:
- Check out the book lists for the 2018-2019 BookLists from America's Battle of the Books, a reading incentive program in which our school participates. There are separate lists of 20 titles each for rising 3rd-4th graders and 5th-6th graders that we use, with lots of great choices, classic and new. As a bonus, if your school participates, your kids' friends may be reading the same books, and they can discuss them together. The booklists are available to anyone, though to participate in the program's quiz show aspects, purchase of the questions is required.
- Another great source of themed book lists is the blog What Do We Do All Day. Erica has posted dozens of book lists with specific titles like Perfect Summer Read-Alouds, Diverse Early Chapter Books, Non-Boring Poetry Books to Make You Love Poetry, and lots more. Go to http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/books-for-kids/ for an index. There is something there for everyone. [Of course there are MANY other excellent sources of themed and age-appropriate book lists, but that's a topic for another post. Or see the BookLists section of my weekly Twitter link roundups.]
- Ask a librarian for help. Librarians know what kids are reading, and will be able to suggest books that you would never think of on your own.
- Consider organizing a book swap or a book club for your child and his friends. Kids often take recommendations from one another seriously, so this is a great way to get them reading.
Next week I will share some detail about how I am specifically preparing for my daughter's summer reading. Stay tuned...