Kids reading Swimming.  BBQs.   Staying up late.  Road trips.   Yes, all signs that summer has arrived.   What about reading?  Does it matter that our kids keep reading during the summer months?   Summer is the perfect time to help cultivate a child's love of reading, especially when we consider that the average child loses 6 weeks in their reading level over summer vacation.  How else does summer loss affect students' reading achievement and why does it matter?

"Summer reading loss refers to the decline in children's reading development that can occur during summer vacation times when children are away from the classroom and not participating in formal literacy programs (Allington & McGill-Franzen, 2003). Far from being an intuitive perception in the minds of educators, the reality of summer reading loss is well documented – and it is more persistent among students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who are already at risk for academic failure...

Access to reading materials has been consistently identified as a vital element in enhancing the reading development of children. Of all the activities in which children engage outside of school, time spent actually reading is the best predictor of reading achievement – the more students read, the better readers they become (Allington, 2006; Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988). The research indicates also that students, on average, spend pitifully little time reading outside of school – about 10 minutes (Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding).

Summer Reading Loss by Maryann Mraz and Timothy V. Rasins via http://www.readingrockets.org/article/15218/

What are tips to keeping your child interested in reading this summer?

  • For Early Readers, point out words in their environment - on toys, cereal boxes, restaurants and street signs.
  • Use your public library. Hands down this is one of the best tools to keeping your child reading.   Most public libraries have put together wonderful (and free!) summer reading programs with pre-set reading lists for kids at different reading levels.  They tend to have built in rewards systems that kids love too!  If your local library doesn't have such a program in place perhaps you can consider starting a small book club with their friends.
  • Model your appreciation for reading. Show your children that reading is important by reading around them - not just with books, but newspapers and magazines as well.
  • Think about creating a small reading nook in your home. All you need are age appropriate books that can be borrowed from your library and a comfy chair (or throw/beanbag).  You can keep books on a shelf or even a basket.
  • Discuss the books that they are reading by asking them open-ended questions. What is their favorite character and why?  What is your favorite part of the book and why?
  • Reading for the road. If you are planning on doing a long drive with your family this summer, bring some audio books from your local library.  Let your kids help pick a few of them out.  Allow your children to help you research aspects of your trip - on the internet, using guidebooks, a Farmer's Almanac, etc.  My kids loved having a map with them on our road trip from California to Iowa - and anytime they asked "are we there yet" I would tell to look at the map.
  • Encourage your child to become well versed in a new topic this summer. Encourage them read about their new interest online and checking out books at the library.
  • Get cooking! Plan a few meals with your child and encourage them to help you find the recipe.  Look up a new recipe online or in cookbooks. They can even grocery shop with you for the ingredients - reading the aisle signs, the food labels, etc.
  • Download kid books. Many of us have access to technology devices that allow for downloading of books - how cool!   However, there are a few sites that allow you to download books for free!
  • For younger kids, read stories aloud to your kids. Feel free to get silly with different character voices, they will love it! Online at sites such like storynory.com and www.rif.org are great tools for audio stories for little ones.  Simply choose your story and let the very talented narrators read classic and new tales to your kids.
  • Read together past the time they can ready by themselves.  The best way to encourage a love of reading is to read to your children - the younger that you get started on this awesome habit, the better.  Once your children are reading all alone, encourage them to read to YOU.
  • Encourage your child to write a letter. Perhaps a grandparent or cousin that lives in another state, or just a friend that they won't see much this summer.
  • Get a magazine subscription for your child. There are numerous magazines that are just for small kids and tweens. Even though most of these magazines tend to have "light" content, at least the age appropriate content will keep them interested in reading.
  • Visit a comic book shop. The box office has renewed an intretst in comic books, which is great because they are great tools for helping children practice their reading skills. Our local library even has a comic book section!
  • Have your child create their own book! Sites like www.tikatok.com and www.bookemon.com are websites dedicated to taking your child's story and accompanying illustrations and turning them into keepsake books.  What a great and unique way to share their creative stories!
  • Come up with an incentive system that works for your child. Maybe it's something as simple as for every 5 books that they read they earn a trip to the dollars store.  Whatever works for you and your family.  Be creative!  Our local bookstore allows kids to earn 1 book for every 8 that they read - cool!
  • It is the summer, so relax the rules a bit.  It's very common for many kids to have a required amount of reading that they must do everyday during the school year.  During the summer months don't set a minute requirement or page requirement.  Instead encourage them to read books/series that they enjoy or books on a subject that they already love. Bed time can always be pushed back during the summer, just a bit, if they are really enjoying a book!
  • Feel free to download the templates below to keep track of their reading progress too! While I am not requiring my kids to read a certain number of minutes, I am recording them per their incoming teacher's request.

Summer Reading Chart Template 1Summer Reading Chart Template 2

As a side note but kind of related to this post, my mother used to tell me stories about of what life was like in her small rural town in Mexico.  She always wished that they had access to more books, in the school and at home.  Maybe that's why she used to take me and my siblings to the local public library.  I especially loved walking to the library during the summer break months because my mother would sign me up for the summer reading program.  I loved trying to read as many books as I could and earning more points than my peers (I was competitive!).  I would check out as many books as I could carry!

I grew to love being around books.  Even though my family had a very tight budget, my father would always give me a few dollars to spend at the school book fair - one of the highlights of the year for me that always left me wishing I had more money to spend.  Maybe that's why I find it so hard to say "no" when my kids want a book!  One of my favorite things to do after class in high school was to take the "EL" train to the Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago and explore it, always ending up on the top floor, sitting in the gorgeous atrium with a book, feeling really happy.  In college I would always find myself drawn to the old, beautiful ivy covered libraries instead of the modern looking ones.   Although not nearly as cool, now I love to stroll through the aisles of my local Barnes & Noble.  And in my dream house I would have a massive library with ladders that would move along the long floor to ceiling shelves packed with books - and let's not forget the stained glass windows and a huge antique wooden table right in the center of my book paradise!

Sadly, my busy schedule doesn't allow me to read as much as I would like, but I am looking for ways to encourage my kids to develop a love of books this summer.  If you have a tip that has worked well for your kids please feel to add it to the comments for this post.

Here are some sites that offer great tips for fostering a love of books in kids:

http://www.rif.org

http://www.readingrockets.org

http://www.greatschools.org

http://www.scholastic.com

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