Summer's Almost Here - How To Keep Your Kids Reading

Family Matters on 05.19.11
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It's May. I am seeing those not-so-subtle signs that summer is around the corner... the Spring Fair at my daughters' school has come and gone, we just had our final round of parent-teacher conferences, and I am starting to get teacher gift emails. I think it's fair to say that the nicer weather and longer days have made my kids just a bit less excited about doing homework. The end of the school year is in sight, and we can all feel it.

My daughters are in first grade, and they've both made great strides in reading this year. While I am looking forward to the homework-free nights of summer, I don't want them to lose their momentum in terms of gaining confidence in reading and building up their vocabularies and stable of sight words. Here are some ideas for ways to keep kids interested in reading after school gets out (with some inspiration from this post from Barnes & Noble):

1. Relax your standards. As long as your kids are reading, it really doesn't matter what they are reading. So if they choose books that aren't Newbery winners, or even on the school summer reading list, don't sweat it. Just try to layer in a quality book every now and again.

2. Make books accessible at home. Like the Barnes & Noble link recommends, I keep book baskets in the house for each girl, which are full of books that match their current reading level. I try to refresh the books every two weeks or so (but you may need to do it more frequently if you have a fast reader on your hands). I also weed our bookshelves and reshelve piles and stacks as frequently as I can.

3. Be sure to ask about what your kids are reading. Use the slower pace of summer to have discussions about the books your kids have read. I find that during the school year, the evenings are sometimes a blur of dinner-bath-homework that doesn't allow me to take a step back and be a real participant in what my kids are learning. Summer nights, with their laid-back tempo, are a good time for longer, more indulgent conversations. They are also a good way to check in on whether your readers are really absorbing what they are reading.

4. Experiment with library books before you invest in your own copies. I've bought some books at my kids' request that have ultimately gone unread, either because the characters didn't grab them or the books weren't the right level. The library is a great way to try books out for free before making them part of your permanent collection. (I am not opposed to buying books because I know that kids like to read and re-read their favorites.)

5. Read along with them. Even if your kids are independent readers, read the same book that they are reading (hello, library!) so that you can have a more meaningful conversation about the books. The major pitfall here, of course, is that it takes time away from your own reading list.

6. Squeeze reading in during any opportune moment - not just when you're at home. Keep books in the car for when you're running errands or driving to or from camp; bring a book to the swimming pool for those irritating adult swim breaks; and be sure to bring a good variety of books when you're traveling.

With some planning and diligence, summer can be a time of real flourishing for young readers.