It’s the start of summer vacation. Parents are scrambling to fill the void left by closed classroom doors. Of course, closed doors don’t necessarily have to mean closed books.
With a little ingenuity and direction, parents can not only banish boredom, but can actually help children keep up their reading skills – all under the guise of having fun! Here are 10 ways to keep your child reading this summer.
1. Create cozy spots for reading. Take a look at the different areas in and around your home. Are there little nooks or corners that would make good reading spots? All that is required is good lighting, a few pillows, maybe some stuffed friends and, of course, something to read. Consider a secluded corner in the family room, that cozy spot under the stairs, or even the playhouse in the backyard.
2. Provide interesting reading materials. Children must enjoy what they are reading – it keeps them motivated. While we would all like our third grader to sit down and read a classic like Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, little Jimmy may be more interested in the adventures of the Box Car Children. Look at the books you have in your home library, and select a few to equip the reading spots you have created. In our home, we use plastic dishpans as “book buckets.” They hold a myriad of reading materials and can be moved from one reading spot to another.
3. Visit the public library. Children love outings, and the library is the perfect place to go and explore. Local libraries sponsor summer reading programs, so sign your kids up. Children earn prizes by reading a certain number of books.
If your child is eligible, get him a library card. In this way, he will develop a sense of ownership and will want to return to the library again.
Ask your children’s librarian for suggestions on reading material appropriate for your child’s age, reading level and interests. Books on favorite subjects are good starting places.
Guide your child’s selections, but let him make the final choice, even if he chooses a book he already has at home. (There seems to be something more exciting about a library book.)
4. Subscribe to children’s magazines. Just like adults, children enjoy a variety of reading materials. There are many different magazines targeted to school-age children. Before selecting a magazine for your child, be sure to take a peek at an issue or two. The library often has copies available for use there. You can also preview a copy at your local newsstand or in major bookstores. Look at the reading level, the types of articles included and the print advertisements. If, at that point, you are still not sure whether your child will like the magazine, buy a test copy.
5. Visit a bookstore. Give your child a few dollars and let him go on a “shopping spree.” You can always set a few guidelines to steer his purchases. Even when you have 1,000 different volumes at home, there’s something about selecting and buying their own books that really motivates children.
Used bookstores are great places to find bargains, often selling books at half-price or more. Some stores take trade-ins, so you can exchange books your child has for ones new to him. You can also find used children’s books at thrift stores.
6. Use your local newspaper. As you read the morning paper, look for articles that may interest your child. Perhaps she would enjoy reading about the exploits of his favorite sports team. Or consider the story about the 10-year-old who saved his mother’s life by calling 911. What about the story of the boy hit by a car while riding his bike? (No reason why you can’t sneak in a moral lesson at the same time.) Don’t forget the funny pages and puzzles often found there.
7. Take a reading vacation. If you plan on traveling this summer, write or call for materials about your destination. Travel brochures and attraction flyers will prepare your child for the adventure ahead and build enthusiasm as well. Consider books set in the location you are planning to visit. Look into historical figures who may have lived there. For example, if your vacation will take you to Southern Florida, plan on visiting Thomas Edison’s summer home. Encourage your children to read a biography about Edison, or study one of his inventions.
If you are not planning to go away this summer, select a spot you would like to visit someday, or learn more about a local landmark.
8. Visit a local museum. Often we take small, local museums for granted. There is a wealth of information hiding inside those four walls. In addition to reading the plaques and narratives describing the exhibits, your child can learn about the history of the area, and the historical figures who influenced it. Look for books, and other reading materials which may interest your child in the gift shop.
9. Write letters. Help your child write to friends and relatives who live in other parts of the country. Cousin Sue and Grandma Peggy are sure to write back – which means more writing and more reading – and the cycle continues.
Penpals can also recommend classics they enjoyed as a child. When Mom suggests a book, the general response is, “It’s too boring.” But when 8-year-old Samuel tells your child about the same “great book he read,” suddenly there’s interest.
10. Read together. In the days before television, families often sat down in the evenings and read a good book aloud. Consider reading a classic together – perhaps one of the books you enjoyed as a child. Children are often put off by thick books, or those with small words, even when the vocabulary is on their level. But by hearing great stories such as Heidi, Treasure Island or Little Women your child may be encouraged to read others on his own. In any event, he will learn to appreciate good literature. Ab-ridged versions of these classics are now available in paperback at book and discount stores. You can also make reading fun simply by reading dialogue in funny voices or acting out scenes from the pages you read together.
These are only a few of the ways you can encourage reading this summer. Be on the lookout for others as they present themselves in your daily life!
Lynn Dean is a freelance writer and mother of three.