The summer months offer a great opportunity to show your child how fun and engaging reading can be. Looking to strengthen your child’s reading skills while simultaneously getting him excited about reading? Here are five ways to do just that:
1. Participate in a summer reading challenge.
Summer reading programs provide your child with a chance to set summer reading goals. Local libraries and organizations often offer summer reading challenges according to age group. Generally, these programs consist of your child logging the number of books she reads over an allotted time period. She may then receive prizes or incentives depending on the number logged and her goal. Summer reading programs are a great way to get her motivated and excited about reading and also teach her how to set and achieve goals.
2. Encourage library time this summer.
The library is a great place to encourage summer reading because it offers a plethora of opportunities to make reading fun. Libraries typically have some type of reading corner or space set up for kids. Take your child to the library for an afternoon or evening once a week and let him explore, sit down to read books, and check out what he may want to read in the coming week. This is a great way for him to explore various book genres and to have a sense of pride in having his own library card. Libraries also offer resources, such as librarians and story times, that can teach him even more about the joys of reading and how the library works.
3. Create a book mystery box.
At the beginning of the summer, visit a local bookstore and purchase a variety of books geared toward your child’s interests and reading level. Add these books to a mystery box for her to select from on a weekly or biweekly basis. This can be a great way to get her excited about reading because it gives her something to look forward to once she finishes the book she is currently reading. You can even take it a step further and incentivize chores and good behavior with a new book she can pick from the mystery box.
4. Take summer reading to the streets.
Remember that all reading counts, so encourage your child to practice his reading skills everywhere he goes. He can read billboards, street signs, shop names, and age-appropriate magazines. This can help younger children understand that reading is a part of every aspect of life, and it can act as a way to keep him engaged during outings. You can create challenges that encourage him to read a certain number of words—and to understand their meanings—while you’re out each day. This number can reflect the length of your outing and can be a fun way to get him excited about going out. Additionally, you can incorporate this challenge into family vacations. When traveling to new destinations, he may encounter words he is somewhat unfamiliar with and can, therefore, work to expand his vocabulary.
5. Make summer reading a social experience.
Encouraging conversations about reading is essential to summer reading success. After your child finishes a book, have a discussion with her about it (better yet, read the same book she is). Ask questions about how she liked the story, what characteristics the various characters possessed, and if there were any words or aspects of the story she struggled with. This will encourage her to be open about her reading habits and what she is enjoying about these books. It can also help gauge how her reading is progressing and what style of book she prefers.
Additionally, reach out to other parents, either in your child’s class or in the neighborhood, to see if they would be interested in starting a summer reading group or book club. This will show your student what others are reading this summer and encourage her to openly discuss books and stories with others. Libraries or local independent bookstores may offer book clubs for various age groups, so do some research to see what programs may be available for your child to make the most of summer reading.
Caitlin Grove is an Associate Content Coordinator for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.
It’s an easy trap to fall into: You tell your kid to read for 20 minutes and he can have extra video-game time. Or ice cream. Or something new and shiny. Yet when we reward our children for spending time with a book, we are focusing their intention away from the act of reading and from their own independence as readers. But is it really possible to create an atmosphere at home where reading is seen as its own reward?
“Yes!” says literacy expert Barbara Marinak, dean of the Division of Education at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, MD, and co-author, along with Linda Gambrell, of No More Reading for Junk. “Give children unlimited access to books and other material, see that their reading material is relevant, and give kids a choice about what, where, and when to read. And always, always talk about what you read.”
The best way to nurture a love of reading is to let children take ownership of that part of their lives, honor their choices, and share in the worlds opened up to them from reading.
How to Give Your Child Optimal Access
Research shows that more access to books—and an environment that supports reading—increases a child’s interest in reading. So providing a wealth of reading material at home is the place to start. Create a dedicated space for your child’s library. Kids’ interests change quickly, Marinak says; she suggests adding new titles from regular trips to the library or bookstore, and passing along books your child has finished reading. “It affords them a chance to share something they loved, which is a very empowering feeling,” she adds.
Give Kids a Voice
Educators agree: Children are more likely to be motivated to read when they choose their own books. In fact, choice, Marinak says, “is the single most powerful motivator for humans, period. Home is where kids can and should have limitless choice.” Beyond allowing children to choose what to read, give them the freedom to select where and when as well. Under the piano bench with the dog? Fine. Standing in the ocean with the waves lapping his ankles? No problem.
Because children can get overwhelmed reading texts that are too hard, and bored with those that are too easy, ask your child’s teacher to recommend books to add to your home library, including high-interest, moderately challenging options, as experts often suggest. If your child loves series, by all means let her read every last volume. Same thing with favorite authors. Ask questions like “How did number four compare to number three?” or “What do you think the author is going to do with that character in the next book?” Try to avoid yes/no answers; series, especially, invite good opportunities to compare and contrast.
Parents as Partners
Marinak doesn’t believe in mandating a set amount of time or number of pages children must read at home. If kids don’t naturally gravitate toward reading, she suggests reading with them. Crack open a cookbook and read a brownie recipe together while you bake. Read directions for a board game or DIY kit. Some readers need options, and parental company, to help them come around to finding their own pleasure in the written word.
Rewards for reading do not help children become motivated readers either, says Marinak, who wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on the topic. You may get a short-term result, but once a prize isn’t dangling, he won’t be motivated to do it again. “If you must reward your child for reading, offer an extra 10 minutes of read-aloud time before bed or go online and pick out a new book together. The best way to nurture a love of reading, however, is to let children take ownership of that part of their lives, honor their choices, and share in the worlds opened up to them from reading. Set the stage early, and your child is in for a lifetime of learning and pleasure.
Pam Abrams is a writer and mother of two who splits her time between the city and the country, and frequents the farmers’ markets in both locations.
Summer is a great time for rest and relaxation, both for your child and the school community! However, you don’t want all your child’s valuable knowledge to shrink or disappear over the course of these months. Here are five ways to keep learning alive through the summer:
1. Read for fun
Some schools may require summer reading lists or projects to complete before the fall. Outside these assignments, encourage your child to find reading material that he enjoys. This may be easier for some students than others, depending on their level of engagement with reading itself. Help jump-start this process by researching award-winning or niche interest lists online, and visit your local library. The librarian can help, and sometimes there are even summer reading challenges that offer prizes upon completion. Especially if your child doesn’t like to read, exposing him to different genres can help widen what he thinks of as “reading.” These less-than-mainstream genres can include comics, poetry, and fan fiction. Reading is a great way for students to improve fluency and vocabulary, increase comprehension skills, and learn more about the world around them.
2. Do DIY projects and crafts
Creative projects are excellent ways to pass time during the summer while also building skills of problem-solving and innovation. Depending on your child’s interests, look into different DIY projects that she could get into. Would she like conducting a science experiment, learning how to knit, or directing a short film, for example? There are ways you could connect these projects to an interest or activity your child already appreciates, like learning to bake a cake if she likes sweet treats. Also consider which of your own skills and hobbies you could share with your child, as well as the skills of older siblings, cousins, or baby-sitters your child might spend time with this summer.
3. Go on field trips
Plan some field trips that you could take your child on. Look into what’s available in your community or within a reasonable travel radius like the zoo, an aquarium, museums, or community centers that are doing interesting local work—many of which have free or reduced admission for students! Don’t forget the park as well, where students can explore the outdoors and being in nature. Check your local newspaper or community newsletter for events, workshops, or movies in the parks that are especially geared toward kids. Additionally, if your family is traveling out of town, have your child do some research on the destination so he will be able to learn something new and get more out of the trip.
4. Attend camps for summer enrichment
Camps are one way for students to tap into the spirit of learning without the structure of school. There are traditional outdoor camps, as well as camps that have a special focus, like musical theater, 3D modeling and printing, or story writing. They come in all shapes and sizes: one week to months long, sleep-away or day camps, strictly or partially academic, etc.
5. Utilize online resources
Whether you’re a tech-savvy person or not, the Internet has an abundance of resources that your child can take advantage of. You might want to do an online search of educational games, video tutorials, or reading programs that can be accessed by computer, tablet, or phone—whatever is the preferred medium for you and your child. You could also look into shows or documentaries that would teach your child something new and that may be related to an interest of hers.
Summer can be a daunting yet exciting time for you and your child. It may help to create a routine or schedule around these activities, but at the same time, stay open to trying new ideas, as some may fail or fade with time. In any case, tap into your community—friends, family, and your child’s friends—to see what works for them and to do any activities together.
Check out the Highlights Summer Learning shop for workbooks and activity packs that blend learning, humor, puzzles, and FUN to help keep kids' school skills sharp all summer long!
Lisa Low is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.