Written by Steve Honig
More than 50 million children in the U.S. have started their summer vacations and their annual break from homework, tests and assignments. Unfortunately, many of them will stop reading while having fun in the sun and experts say parents need to make sharing books a part of summer vacation and establish regular reading routines for their children.
Raising A Reader, a national nonprofit organization that provides resources and guidance for families to implement home-based literacy routines, has several tips for parents to make reading a part of the summer break.
“Summer reading should be all about the parent-child experience,” said Gabrielle Miller, Ed.D., president and CEO of Raising A Reader. “Rather than having it be a chore, or a list of must-read books, summer is a terrific opportunity to build family reading experiences. Whether it’s as simple as reading with children so they can see how much adults love reading, or visiting places and doing activities tied to a book, there are a host of ways reading can help children enjoy the summer and be ready to start school in the fall.”
Here are some of the Raising A Reader tips for parents:
- Reading often gets lost in the shuffle of summer activities such as camp, sports and vacation travel. Schedule a regular time to share books with your child and establish a regular routine to ensure reading doesn’t become a low priority and has the same importance as other activities.
- It’s OK to let your child read e-books if he or she is comfortable using a tablet, but remember, whether it’s an e-book or a print book — especially for young children — the most important thing is to spend time together sharing the book. It’s about the experience, not the technology.
- Make it fun. Have your child come up with a different ending to a story, play ‘what if’ with the characters or the setting, or read the book from end to beginning. Come up with fun ways to engage your child beyond the actual reading of the book.
- Let your child choose. Books are great, but so are comic books, magazines and even educational websites such as National Geographic Kids or The Discovery Channel. Let them chase their interests and they’ll be reading more than they realize.
- Create an outdoor reading area so the whole family can enjoy the summer weather and not feel stuck inside. Children generally read indoors, so being outdoors will create a new environment for enjoying a book and boost a child’s enthusiasm for reading.
- Connect with other families to share books and arrange reading playdates. You can even set up a Facebook group to stay in touch and share ideas, swap books and make plans.
- Write a book with your child about them, your family, their favorite foods or toy, their friends or whatever interests them most. Your child can draw pictures or use actual photos. If you’re worried that your child spends too much time watching TV or playing video games, have him or her tell you or write a story about their favorite TV show or video game. You can also use one of many templates available to create and print the book on your computer.
- Invite the family pet to join the book sharing experience. Even if your child can’t read yet, have her ‘read’ the story to you and the pet. Children who can read will be able to practice their skills and children who have not yet learned to read will begin to think of themselves as ‘readers’ which is very important to lifelong learning.
- Find books that are centered on summer activities he or she enjoys. If your child likes to go horseback riding, for example, find books about horses or stories with horses as an integral part of the plot. This will give a child a welcome change from the types of books read during the school year and better complement their summer.
- If you are taking a trip, read books about your destination with your child before you leave. Do some research with them on the location and find things in the area they want to do while visiting. And don’t forget to play “I Spy” with road signs or license plates along the way.
- If you are taking your kids somewhere for the day, such as a pool, the beach, a picnic or the zoo, pack a book to share and have a reading break or two during day. After an hour or so in the water, your child may enjoy 30 minutes of reading on a comfortable chair or even floating on a raft.
- Create a summer reading challenge with family members or connect to your public library’s summer reading challenge activities. When your child meets the challenge make sure there is time to talk about the book, share the story with others and read the next book.
Raising A Reader is a 501c3 charitable organization dedicated to helping families develop, practice and maintain literacy habits for children ages 0-8 that are critical for a child’s success in school and in life. The program is evidence-based, with more than 32 independent evaluations showing that Raising A Reader significantly improves language and literacy skills, cognitive development, communication and comprehension skills, school readiness and social competence. Raising A Reader is implemented through a network of community partners that comprise more than 2,500 locations across the country including public school systems, libraries, afterschool programs, community agencies and other organizations both public and private. Headquartered in Redwood City, California, Raising A Reader was founded in 1999 and has served more than 1.25 million families nationwide. More information is available at RaisingAReader.org, @RARnational (Twitter) and RaisingAReaderNational (Facebook).