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Summer Reading 101

Keep kids and teens reading—and loving it



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Young boy readingWhen school is out for summer, the last thing many kids want to do is pick up another book. However, reading is one of the most important activities children can do now to help themselves later—both when they go back to school in the fall, and later in life.

If children don't engage in educational activities such as reading and math over the summer, they can experience summer learning losses. 

"With the majority of U.S. fourth-grade students reading below the proficient level, the summer months are critical for student learning," said Meredith Curley, Dean of the College of Education at University of Phoenix. "By engaging in fun reading activities during the summer months, parents not only have the opportunity to encourage learning, but to motivate their children to develop a lifelong love of reading."

Curley offers these tips for parents and caregivers to help incorporate reading into everyday activities in ways that will make it fun to keep learning all summer long. 

"Reading is critical for a child's success, no matter what age," said Curley. "By finding ways to make reading part of your children's everyday activities, you are helping them build a solid foundation not just for the next school year, but for their futures."

For Younger Readers (grades K to 6)

Read out loud.

Encouraging your children to read aloud will help develop their reading fluency and build their confidence as readers. For example, ask them to read recipe directions as they help you prepare a treat in the kitchen. If they make a mistake, gently point out overlooked letters or words read incorrectly.

Let them play.

Games and activities played on electronic devices provide many opportunities to engage children with words and letters. Spelling games, word games, and matching games can help children build reading proficiency and comprehension. Consider devices with learning games when purchasing a toy for a child. Instead of watching a movie in the car, consider audio books and CDs and DVDs with reading games. 

Turn them into storytellers.

Have your child read a book and then retell the story. If he or she has trouble, help by asking the five Ws: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.

Hone their critical thinking skills.

Success in reading isn't just about decoding words, but also about comprehension. Help your children build critical thinking skills by asking them questions, such as what they think about something that happens in a story, if they have experienced something like that before, and other questions to help engage them in the story. Also, when they ask you questions, answer and then ask a follow-up question.

Turn a library visit into an adventure.

Make an ordinary trip to the public library an adventure for your child by selecting a topic to research. For instance, set out to learn everything you can about your hometown, animals, or space; or set out to answer a specific question. Many libraries also offer weekly classes that parents can attend with their child to encourage the love of reading.

Simple activities such as these can increase a child's understanding of sequencing, link reading to real-world activities, expand their vocabulary, and feed their curiosity, all while building their interest in reading.

Choosing Books

A book that is too easy to read doesn't help kids grow as readers, but books that are too difficult to read can be frustrating and discouraging. A simple rule of thumb for choosing an appropriate book is called the Five Finger Rule. Let your children pick out books that interest them. Have them read 100 words from the book, asking them to raise one finger for each word they don't know, or are unsure of. If the child raises more than five fingers, the book is probably too difficult.

For Tween and Teen Readers

While younger children frequently read for fun, the voluntary reading rate tends to drop dramatically as they move through their teen years. A recent National Endowment of the Arts reading study found that while 54 percent of 9-year-olds read for pleasure, the number drops to 30 percent for 13-year-olds, and only 22 percent for 17-year-olds.

Curley recommends that you encourage your teen or tween to read by finding activities that engage their unique interests and allow them to assert their own opinions. Here are some ideas to help tweens and teens rediscover the pleasure of reading:

Have them write. 

Teens can submit book reviews to sites such as YABooksCentral.com. This is a great way to combine reading, writing, and critical thinking skills. Or, encourage them to write fan fiction, putting their own spin on a favorite book or genre, either as a written story or a video script version of a book.

Let them check out graphic novels.

These aren't the comic books you might have grown up with. There are some high-quality titles available that deal with a wide range of subjects that will appeal to girls and boys and can be a great way to engage reluctant readers.

Look for book-to-film novels.

If teens have seen the movie, they might be willing to read the book. If you read it too, then you can talk about the differences between the two versions such as what worked, what didn't, why the filmmakers might have made certain changes, etc.

Find different reading materials.

Magazines, newspapers, short stories, and online articles can also help build a teen's reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. If your teen has a particular interest, such as cars or sports, consider getting them a magazine subscription.

Suggest a book club.

Check your local library or bookstore to see if they have teen reading clubs. If not, encourage your teen to start one. They will be able to read what their friends are reading and can then have fun talking about it.

Choosing Books

There are a lot of middle grade and young adult books available. So many, in fact, it can be overwhelming. Here are a few ways you and your teen can find something he will enjoy reading: 

Start at the library.

Librarians often showcase new and popular books in displays in the youth reading sections. Let your tween or teen explore the options and read a chapter or two to see what piques her interest. (If she find a series she likes, consider buying the rest of the books for her.) There might be suggested teen reading lists on the library website, as well. 

Go online.

Teens tend to want to read what their peers are reading. Check out websites such as GoodReads.com, or TeenReads.com, or teen book review blogs such as TheBookCellarx.com or KatiesBookBlog.com. Additionally, many libraries now offer e-books for check out, making it easy to get a good book for your tablet or e-reader

Summer Reading Lists

In addition to reading lists put together by your local libraries, you can find several good book lists online.

Reading Rockets provides book lists by theme, so if you want to find books about art, monsters, animals, or science, you are covered. The website also provides book lists for parents of children with disabilities.

Reading is Fundamental provides book lists divided by age group, as well as a multicultural book list.

The Children's Book Council offers lists for social studies and science books, books hot off the presses, and the Children's Choices lists of books chosen by teams of children from across the country.

Source: University of Phoenix. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

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