In summer, children want to forget about school. As the old jingle says, “No more pencils, no more books…”
But Francie Alexander, chief academic officer at Scholastic Education, wants to change that rhyme to “lots more books.” Alexander says, “Children should think of summer as a chance to read more, not less, than during the school year.”
Alexander says summer is great because kids can choose their own reading materials. “Summer reading allows children the freedom to read books about topics that interest them, without the pressure of a deadline,” she says.
Prevent the Summer Slide
“Summer slide” is a phrase that describes the loss of learning that can occur over the summer. “Research shows that children who do not read during the summer can get behind. A two-month break from reading may cause students to need more time to review when they return to school in the fall and delay the learning of new material,” says Alexander.
Therefore experts suggest children read at least three to four age-appropriate books. But they don’t have to be traditional books. “Children can read online articles, magazines, and even comic books,” Alexander says.
Thom Barthelmess, president of the Association of Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, says to find reading lists on websites and ask your librarian for suggestions.
Barthelmess suggests that parents steer clear of dictating what kids can read. “Sometimes adults put too much emphasis on literary classics and character-driven novels. While some days children may be motivated to read a long novel like Harry Potter, other days they may prefer to read an automobile magazine. Any reading can help children internalize that words can come together and inspire them,” he says.
Demonstrate the Value of Reading
“The best way for parents to encourage children to read is to create a household that demonstrates the value of reading,” Barthelmess says. Model this behavior by reading yourself and by having reading material readily available.
Here are some other pro-reading strategies from Alexander and Barthelmess:
- Most libraries offer incentive programs that can include book logs and small prizes. Scholastic.com offers an online reading community and a challenge to participate in reading for the world’s record.
- Consider a book group. Sharing their ideas with others gives children greater insight and allows them to understand the story in a new way. Find book groups online and at libraries; or start your own.
- Entice children with technology. Use an e-reader or listen to audio books on an iPod.
- Use warm weather to encourage reading at the beach, at the pool, or under a tree. Letting children stay up an extra 15 minutes each night to read is another incentive.
- Don’t listen to the radio in the car; listen to an audio book.
- Co-read the same book. That’s an excellent way for parents and children to relate to each other and share an experience.
- Read aloud together. Parents can help a child to develop a positive relationship with reading and with books by emphasizing that reading is a fun and enjoyable activity.
Randi Mazzella is a freelance writer and mom to three from Short Hills, New Jersey.