Last week I posted some tips for parents on encouraging kids' summer reading. My main argument was:
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.
Today I'd like to share a few more specific examples of how I'm preparing for my daughter's anticipated summer reading. Things I have done:
- Read a new book called The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie. Even though I was already well on-board with the idea of reading aloud, and fostering my daughter's love of books, this book energized me to do more reading aloud this summer with my daughter.
- Started going to the public library more regularly (we don't go much during the school year because she goes to school library and because we have so many books at home. And because her "graphic novels only" phase has pretty well exhausted the public library's selection. But in the summer we will go more, and just sit and read picture books, or whatever she wants to do. (Choice)
- Made sure we have our current Harry Potter book (Order of the Phoenix) in print and on Kindle for travel. (I might not do this with a shorter book but this is a total bargain in this case - we will be reading this book together all summer long. And I do not intend to carry the print copy on any trips.). (Choice and Access, because she ADORES this series)
- Ordered a set of 3 collapsible storage bins to put in the car, bathroom and next to the kitchen table to keep summer reading books handy. This is already working. I might need more bins. (Access)
- Went through the booklist for her school's Battle of the Books. The contest is scheduled for the fall, and as a rising third grader this will be her first opportunity to participate. Battle of the Books is a quiz show-like contact for which kids form teams and answers questions about books. I am not at all sure that my daughter will want to participate (she tends to be a free spirit when it comes to reading), but my thinking is that if she is going to read anyway, and if there are books on the list for her age group that she is interested in, then she may as well read them. (Access and Choice, because I won't MAKE her read anything)
- Of the list of 20 books I pulled two of them off my shelves, and ordered seven others that I thought she might like. I didn't order anything with depressing covers or any picture books (which she could read in the fall quickly anyway).
- Ordered some other books that I thought she would like, including
- The Cardboard Kingdom, a new graphic novel for which I've seen very positive reviews.
- Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (because Lin's Year of the Dog series remains the only middle grade series she's devoured that isn't a graphic or notebook novel, even though I know this other book is very different).
- Spy School by Stuart Gibbs (because she loves spies, and it's the first of a series)
- I'm also planning to sort out some other books that are stacked up around the house (like the stacks of books that my neighbor recently handed down) and add things that I think she might like to her summer reading baskets. There's a stack of the Geronimo Stilton books, for example, that I think may catch her fancy. But that's just about access and organization. Reading any of these books will be up to her.
- Got her to agree to a 30 minute per day limit on iPad time during summer vacation. Now, we all know that there will be many battles over this once vacation actually starts, but I'm going to try to enforce it. What I told her, and what I truly feel, is that I want her to have time to do other things: reading, swimming, drawing, playing, etc. And that while a little device time is fine, all of these other things are better for her development. We'll see how that goes, in terms of applying the limit, but I know that it will work in terms of more reading. This past weekend she had her device taken away for a misbehavior, and she spent more time reading, doing Perler beads, writing, painting, etc.(Time)
- Signed her up for a childcare option that offers a flexible start time. This way, if she becomes immersed in a book, I don't have to tear her away to meet some deadline (as happens all the time during the school year). I realize that not everyone has this option, but I am grateful that I do. (Time)
Here is what I did not do to prepare for my daughter's summer reading:
- Sign her up for any formal summer reading programs with prizes. I believe that such programs take away the implicit motivation to read. I think there is a place for them for some kids, to jump-start reading, but I don't think we need that at this point, so I am staying away.
- Pay any attention to AR points on anything in the baskets. I do not care if she reads anything that will help her in third grade. I just care that she's reading something.
- Think much about what books I loved as I selected options for my daughter - her taste is clearly different from mine (though I am planning to read Spy School).
Obviously, this set of actions is very specific to our situation. I buy more books than most people do, I know. I do this in part to encourage re-reading and in part to support authors and publishers. And, ok, because I'm just weak that way. But obviously, one could accomplish the same goal by going to the library every week and taking advantage of generous check-out policies and easy online renewals, or prowling around used bookstores.
The point is to have plenty of appealing books around, so that when the child has free time, reading is an attractive option. And, of course, to provide that free time.
I'll report back and let you know how well this prescription works in our household. What are you doing to prepare for your child's summer reading? I welcome other suggestions.