I asked her about her tactics for addressing the reading situation and listened as she spoke about taking her kids to the library and watching her daughter race to the book shelves as her son escaped to the neighboring park to play. Clearly he was making a statement to his mom that summer reading did not match his personal agenda.
As a mother of three I can remember facing this same challenge. While one child was an avid reader, the other two - not so much! Every summer I struggled with my kids to make sure that they read at least 30 minutes a day. Some days were more challenging than others and not every week met with success. But I did come up with a few things that seemed to work for us. In addition, I have collected a few other suggestions from educators.
First - let me share with you how I answered my parent’s question.
Yes, it is important that children continue to read over the summer months. Keeping kids minds engaged continues the learning process. But reading shouldn’t be a heinous chore that kids run from.
So here are a few ideas to make summer reading less of a challenge and perhaps a bit less stressful for parents.
1. Establish that reading is important and that you expect your child to do it. reinforce this by letting your child see you reading too.
2. Understand that it is summer and play time can be as important as reading time.
3. Determine the amount of desired reading time. You know your child’s schedule better than anyone else. While some kids are involved in summer commitments that involve their entire day, others are not, so of course available reading time will differ. Reading 15 minutes a day or 30 minutes three times a week may work best for your child. Talk with your children and make them part of the process of determining when, what and where to read. However, once you establish a reading schedule, make every effort to have your kids honor it.
4. Books are not the only things that kids should get to choose to read. Look for magazines like American Girl, American Geographic For Kids or Sports for Kids. Find something that addresses an interest that your child may have. Or spark a new interest by offering a copy of Cobblestone historical magazine or ASK magazine on Arts and Science for kids. You can find suggestions for other award winning magazines for kids at http://www.parents-choice.org
5. Preparing for a family vacation? Have your kids search for books about the people and places that you will be visiting.
6. Cookbooks can be great ways to engage your child’s interests and creative styles. If your child is cooking a dessert from France, you might ask your librarian for a children’s story set in that country. Share a chapter or two with your child while they are cooking, then encourage them to finish the book on their own.
7. Chapter books that focus on adventure, mystery or travel may be the perfect hook for grabbing your child’s attention. Consider dividing the reading responsibilities with one child sharing the chapter reading with another.
8. Some children really benefit from the summer library programs where they receive recognition for books read. Book marks, stars and stamps serve as validation for their hard work. I know of a few parents who give their kids “Pennies For Pages Read” certificates. Certificates can be redeemed at the end of summer for modest prizes. Although I’m not a real advocate for paying kids to read, I do appreciate that this method might just be the stimulus that some parents need to get their kids moving towards the book shelf.
Another parent I know created a reading treasure chest filled with baseball cards, hair ribbons, toy action figures, coloring books and more. After her kids had read three books and shared with their dad or mom what the stories were about, they earned a trip to the treasure chest.
9. Consider books on tape or cd’s to listen to during traveling time. Some actually have books that your child can read along with.
10. Provide a time for your kids to share what they have read. Be it the dinner table, while driving to the market or at bedtime. Encourage your child to share with you what they liked, learned or what interested them about their book or magazine. Consider reading part of their next selection together as you tuck them into bed at night.