If you are a parent, you're likely familiar with the summer slide, where kids' skills and abilities in subjects like reading and math diminish over the summer months. Researchers estimate that by the time a struggling reader reaches middle school, summer reading loss has accumulated to a two-year lag in reading achievement. We all know reading in the summer is important, but we also know getting the kids to read while on vacation can be difficult. Here are some ways you can help encourage your child to read during summer break without a battle.
Remind Kids Why Reading Is Important
If reading is seen as a chore that needs to be done to fill out a reading log, it's time for a perspective shift. Most people understand reading is important and associate it with intelligence, but much like exercise, knowing something is important and doing it are two different things.
Kids need know that reading is something your family values and something your family does. If your family values include learning new things and striving to understand the world, reading is key. Books expose readers to different cultures and lands and ideas without even leaving the house.
Add Books to Their Environment
If you have plenty of books in your house but your kids aren't picking them up, look for opportunities to put books in places where kids might be bored and a little bit trapped. The kids should be able to access books in the car, and the bathroom is another wonderful opportunity to get a book in your child's hands. If you go anywhere with a waiting room or a chance for an "I'm bored" to pass the kids' lips, books should come with you.
Remove Distractions From Their Environment
What are the barriers to reading in your home? Many kids tend to reach for electronics before books, so find opportunities to limit access to those devices and get kids to reach for books instead. We're not suggesting going screen-free but rather eliminating that shiny distraction as often as necessary to get a book in your kid's hands.
Expand Your View of Acceptable Reading Material
Comic books are books. Magazines are interesting and educational. Reading is reading, and anything that has words or pictures counts. Even audiobooks require following a story and visualizing the world in your head, making them a wonderful resource for kids.
During the school year, much of what your child reads will be decided by their teachers. Summer is when reading should be fun, loose and a time where your kids can choose their reading material. If you need help finding books of interest for your kids, the children's librarians at the public library can offer suggestions.
Give the Summer Days Some Structure
I'm all for loose plans in the summer, but multiple days with no structure aren't good for anyone. On days when my kids aren't at camp or otherwise out of the house, we still have chores, we still have some semblance of mealtime and we all take a reading break at some point in the day. All of us. Which leads me to the next suggestion...
Model the Behavior
As busy parents, many of us don't take the time to sit and read for pleasure, but we are still learning and growing and deserve the chance to read for fun. Find something you enjoy reading and read it. That's it. When your kids see you reading, they'll learn that it's something your family values, and it will become more important. Turn off the distractions, find a cozy spot and read as a family for 20 minutes.
Take Advantage of Library or School Summer Reading Programs
Many schools and libraries have reading programs to help families stay on track during summer vacation. Take advantage of these! Often there are prizes for participating, and many times there are fun activities that go along with programs.
If Necessary, Provide Incentives
I'm not above bribing my kids if I'm trying to get them to develop a habit. My timid daughter got a quarter every time she got a rebound in basketball because she needed to become comfortable getting under the net. Chasing the money, she became more confident and became a better player. If your reader is reluctant to pick up a book despite all of the other things you've tried—and you know your kid is motivated by treats—go for it.
Summer is a great opportunity for kids to develop good reading habits in a fun, relaxed environment. And it just may be the chance for you to fall in love with reading again, too!
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