|Author: Laura J.
Colker, Ed. D.
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 Fundamental:
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
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
- Lead by
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.
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
- 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.
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 interesting!
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
- 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
- Buy books on tape, especially
for a child with a learning
disability. 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
- 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
- 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
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 bored.
- Writing a play together.
- Composing and singing songs
- Sharing parents' childhood
favorite books with children.
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
RIF's Reading Planet,
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
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
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.