Research shows that kids who don’t read during the summer lose up to 3 months of reading progress and as much opportunity to learn. Encouraging your child to read over the summer keeps them learning, amps up their reading progress, and makes the transition back to school easier. Plus it can lead to better college prep. Um, win!
Whether you homeschool or your littles are out of public school for the summer, you should take the time to encourage a summer reading program for your littles. It’s summer, though, so let’s not make this a pressure-filled do-or-die thing. We want our kids to love to read, not be stressed by it. Right?
There are many fun ways to encourage summer reading. Here are just a few:
1. Keep it light and breezy
Summer isn’t necessarily the time when you want to throw a literary classic at your littles (unless it’s Watership Down or The Wind in the Willows, which are fantabulous summer reads). Your kid is into myths? Pick up some Rick Riordan. He thinks the Wimpy Kid is funny? Let him read the whole series (Littlest has at least twice). She’s feeling like an outsider? Yeah, pick her up some Ramona books. The ultimate misunderstood outsider. Kids enjoy books more when they can relate to them and summer reading, like all things summer, should be For Fun.
2. Make books easily accessible
Kids, even homeschooled kids, get bored during the summer with so many hours of daylight and so much free time on their hands. Place baskets of books around the house where they will catch your littles’ eyes and maybe interest them. Place one by the couch or near the TV. Put a basket in the bathroom. Keep one in the car. If they don’t have their own shelves in their room (or even if they do), put a basket near their beds. Put lots of variety in each basket. You never know which is going to intrigue them, depending on their mood and the day. Of course, providing variety could get expensive so
3. Take weekly trips to the library
Books are going to be a lot more appealing to your littles if they’ve picked them themselves. A weekly library trip will allow them to keep plenty of titles on hand, and you’ll have books you already know interest them to place in the baskets. Mix in the picks of all the siblings–something her brother picked might catch her attention if none of her own picks hold appeal. I mean, you know how they like to take things that belong to one of their siblings. It’s some kind of natural law.
4. Set aside a tech-free hour
First let me tell you I just spelled ‘hour’ without the h and thought, “Wait, that doesn’t look right.” Sheesh. Alzheimer’s is setting in.
Okay, so don’t set aside this hour and tell your littles they have to read. That brings that pressure on and they will balk. Simply tell them it’s time to turn of the TV, video games, tablet, laptop, phone whatever their tech du jour, and that for an hour they have to find something else to do. They might ride their bikes or play on the swingset. My littles would likely head to the woods for a game of imagination. (Say it like Spongebob: I-maaaa-gi-naaationnn) But on really sweltering days when they want to just loll in the AC or at least sit under a shade tree, having a choice of books around could lead to reading. Don’t time them. When I was a kid I could pick a tree and read for 3-4 hours in its shade while barely blinking. Okay, I won’t lie, I can still do that. On special days when I am forcing myself to take a break from this Mama Life. So like once a year. Who am I kidding? I Could still do that, but no one will let me.
There is no, “Okay, kids, hour’s up,” here. Unless they specifically ask if the hour is up, let them read or play or anything that gets them away from a damn screen for part of the day.
5. Offer rewards
The library I worked at bought a slew of children’s picture and chapter books at the beginning of every summer. Our summer reading program required reading 10 picture books or 10 chapters of a chapter book a week. If you brought in your list signed by your mama or dada, you got to pick one of those new books to keep. It was a pretty cool program, actually, because the reward was More Reading, but kids were so pumped to win something they kept doing it.
If you do offer rewards for reading, keep in mind that it could lead to a temporary reading habit rather than the long-term one we want to establish. So be choosy about the rewards you offer. It doesn’t make sense to say for every half hour they read they get a half hour of video games. That just makes them love video games all the more. The reading becomes a chore they have to do to get what they really want. So be careful how you do this.
6. Set Goals
Don’t go for a daily page limit, because again: chore. Think more long term–if your child struggles or isn’t enthralled with reading, set a goal of 3-5 books for the summer. If your child already loves to read but might get distracted by all the other fun summer stuff there is to do, set the number higher. Don’t offer a reward or punishment for reaching the goal. Simply state that reading that number of books is expected of them this summer. And let them choose the books.
7. Plan field trips related to books
Take a trip to a museum, the zoo, or a farm (that would be great for Charlotte’s Web), or if you live in an area with lots of caves like I do, take a cave tour. Find a book that relates to these field trips. If your museum has an Ancient Egypt section, Make sure Riordan’s The Red Pyramid is in their basket. You get me? Also, if you live near the home of an author–Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder–a day visit might spark your littles’ interest in the author’s books. Plus, who doesn’t want to see those places? This girl wishes she homeschooled from an RV so she could see them all. Anybody got a million bucks laying around?
8. Read together
Finally (and you knew it was coming), you know what a big proponent I am of continuing to read aloud with your littles no matter how big they get. Especially if you just Have To make sure they are getting some quality literature over the summer (and yes, I am That Mom), then pick a book to read aloud with your littles. We always pick a book and start our day with a chapter. I read to them while they’re having breakfast. I love knowing they are starting the morning with a little adventure, a little vocabulary, and an amped-up imagination. How is that not a win, I ask you?
Summer reading can become a favored part of your child’s life. Allowing it to do so organically will mean it sticks with them forever. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:
We Want them to be lifelong readers so they can be lifelong learners. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Love (of books) wins,