Five Ways to Encourage Summer Reading

Has elementary school dismissed for summer where you live? Here in the midwest, where kids start the school year mid-August, summer vacation is upon us. A magical time of playgrounds, libraries, swimming pools, and popsicles is here  and I can’t wait.

Of course, the dreaded “summer learning loss” is also looming on the horizon. When kids take an extended break from school, they forget some of what they learn. I’ve honestly never worried about it before, but now that my daughter’s in elementary school, I want to make sure she’s flexing that brain of hers to minimize any loss that might occur.

So what can you do with your children to keep learning on the forefront of summer? Here are just a few easy things, many of which you probably already do. My advice would be if your child is more of a reader, make sure you focus on a few math ideas. If your child is more of a numbers fiend, then be sure to expose her to language activities.

1) Join your local summer reading program. Nearly every library runs one. Talk to your librarian if you’re not sure where to find the books on your child’s reading level. Barnes & Noble offers a summer reading program where children can keep a book log and then earn a free book for their efforts. Something I learned at a PTA meeting this year is that reading non-fiction does more to improve a child’s comprehension skills, which is something I’ll keep in mind as my daughter picks out books at the library.

2) Find a series your child loves. If you haven’t been to the young readers section of the bookstore or library lately, go visit. You’ll be amazed at the number of different series there are for the most basic reader all the way through middle school. Keep picking books from assorted series until a storyline or set of characters grabs her interest. From there, the rest is easy.

3) Use technology to your advantage. My daughter loves using apps on the iPhone and iPad, so I make sure she spends some time with educational apps before she starts playing Cut the Rope. We’ve just started using Ruckus Reader, which offers amazing story apps, complete with age-appropriate activities.

4) Model reading everyday. It’s important that your child see you read, and that she understands why you’re reading something. Are you reading a recipe? A set of directions for a game? A set of instructions for a craft project? Are you reading Facebook to keep up with your friends? Let her see you reading, and verbalize what you’re doing.

5) Don’t discount comics and graphic novels. Illustrated books can move a story along for a reader who needs more clues than the words can give, and they’re fun to boot. Bad Kitty is a favorite at my house, along with Zita the Space Girl. As a volunteer in my daughter’s school library, I also know that the Adventures of Tin Tin are immensely popular.

How else do you encourage your child to read during long school breaks? What kind of books do they like? Please share your thoughts in the comments- summer is long, and everyone loves variety!

3 replies on “Five Ways to Encourage Summer Reading”

My daughter is all about the craft books, but she also likes Beverly Cleary, Boxcar Children, Bad Kitty, and anything to do with Pokemon (our library has quite a few of the graphic novel, read right to left like the traditional Japanese manga, and I think she likes the challenge). She’s read the first two Harry Potter books, but she’s not crazy for them yet. Still, she’s only 8.

My son is almost 5 and can’t really read yet, but he likes to be read to, and he loves anything to do with sea life, rhyming, and superheros. Spider-man is his favorite. Oh, and any of the ‘Pigeon’ books like, ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.’

I know I’m lucky in that they love books, so I never really had to do anything to motivate them. I hope it continues.

I loved working for the Summer Reading Program at my library!  (Seriously, that was my job.  To man the YA summer reading desk.  Dream.  Job.  And they paid me.  And then gave me all the leftover free books I wanted.  And let me read while working.  Oh, for the days before budget cuts…)  Our library gives out a free book or “activity pass” to somewhere around the city for every so many hours read.  (I always chose the free book myself.)  The best strategy I’ve found for helping kids of any age pick out books is to ask them what they read to reach their summer reading goals so far, or what books they liked at school.  Then sit on the floor and talk about books with them.  Kids have opinions.  And those opinions are usually pretty cool.  As for pictures + stories:  YES YES YES.  Some kids need visual cues, and reading comic books is better than not reading at all, right?

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