9 Ways to Keep Reading in Summer from Being a Bummer
Growing up, I was an avid reader but even I dreaded the annual summer reading list. The books were bor-ring! After all, some dusty old adult had picked them out. Then I graduated from education school and became one of those decrepit old teachers and assigned my own summer reading lists.
Summer reading helps stave off the summer learning slide and creates a common core of knowledge for students, even before they walk into class. As parents, summer reading lists are an opportunity to teach our kids to find the joy in even required learning.
Here are 9 ways to encourage "summer reading" in your home:
1. Choose your own adventure: Most summer reading lists come with options and you may even be able to discuss other alternatives with the teacher. Find out the rationale behind the list (perhaps there is a common theme) and see if there is room to propose other books that meet the requirements.
2. Accentuate the positive: If you have the right attitude, your child will be more likely to approach summer reading with a positive outlook. Start with your child's interests. Find ways your child can explore his interests and meet his goals through selections from the book list.
3. Pace yourself: Develop a reading schedule with your child and set times of day for reading, with flexibility for summer fun, of course!
4. Get involved: "My kids love bringing books to life by acting out portions of the story through real life events," explains Shara Lawrence-Weiss, author and founder of Personal Child Stories. "For instance – if we are reading about baking, they want to go into the kitchen and bake with me. If we are reading about nature, they want to follow up by going on a walk or exploring the back yard. If we are reading about bugs they ask me if we can go searching for bugs with magnifying glasses in hand. If we read about tents they want to pitch one of course!"
5. Organize a book-Inspired "stay-cation": Summer reading and summer vacation are two great tastes that go great together. While flying to location if your kids are reading "The Good Earth" might be out of budget, Raina Angelier, author and illustrator, suggests a book-inspired staycation. "Recently, my daughters read "My Side of the Mountain" and although it was too cold to camp outdoors, we set up the tent in our den, made a mock campfire surrounded by woodland critters (a.k.a. their stuffed animals), projected stars onto the ceiling with a nightlight, used a sound machine for the authentic chirping of crickets, and read a few chapters of the book together. In the morning, we cooked acorn pancakes as the main character did. It was a wonderful experience for all of us, one that I hope will remain a special childhood memory, and one that will build upon their love of reading."
6. The medium is the message: Especially with reluctant and struggling readers, the key is to make reading fun. Forcing a child to read silently can easily backfire. Melissa Taylor of Imagination Soup suggests, "Let your child listen to the audio book instead." Taylor also advises parents to read the books aloud to your child "every chance you get --eating lunch, brother’s baseball game, or bedtime." If you have been considering investing in an e-reader, now might be a good time to make that leap. Having a cool tablet might spark a new interest in reading for a teen. Many books also now have film trailers on YouTube to get readers excited about the story. If there is a film version of the book, have a family movie night...after she has finished reading the book.
7. Start a book club: Encourage your child to choose the same book as a friend and read chapters at the same pace. Meet weekly to read passages out loud and discuss themes. Make sure to provide plenty of delicious snacks to make the experience enjoyable and memorable. You can even throw a themed party once the reading is complete.
8. Change of venue: Maybe reading in her room is getting a little stale. Bring a blanket and a picnic basket and read at a park. Pitch a tent and take a flashlight and read under the stars. Mix-up the routine a bit.
9. Reward reading: One of the most perplexing truths I've learned about students is that even jaded teens will jump through all sorts of academic hoops for a small trinket or a piece of candy if it is a "prize". Most local libraries and even some businesses offer incentives (okay, maybe they are bribes for summer reading.
Do you embrace or dread the summer reading list? How do you make sure your student starts the year off on the right foot?