It happens every year all over the nation. As the weather heats up and the school calendar winds down, Room Moms plan class parties, principals give awards, and kids clean out desks. Teachers hug their students goodbye and boys and girls run out the door with a pencil box of used crayons and a list of recommended books for the summer. “Don’t forget to read every day!” we holler, as the kids bolt for pool days, sidewalk chalk and frozen popsicles.
As an educator, I’m completely sold on the idea of reading during the non-school months. As a mom, I know that time, motivation and the uncertainty of teaching best reading strategies are hindrances to making it happen. Try these five ideas to keep summertime reading part of the school’s out routine.
#1 Fun Counts– It’s a simple formula: kids who enjoy reading equals kids who become better readers. Investing time to find books that are tailored to fit your child’s interests, hobbies, curiosities and funny bones, will result in improved reading. A National Research Council study from a few years back maintains that one major cause of low reading ability is a lack of motivation (Snow et al., 1998). So if your child just can’t wait to dive into a comic book, let her! If your kid doesn’t want to put down a book about ogres, don’t force him to. From lizards to Legos, baseball to ballet, find books that excite, inspire and enthuse your child’s unique personality.
#2 Get’em Hooked– Unfortunately, one book won’t last forever. A major key to fueling the reading fire is finding a series that makes your child want more. I recommend trying The Imagination Station series by Marianne Hering and Paul McCusker to share God’s truths in a fun and creative way. For an exciting historical context, give Bible KidVentures Old Testament Stories a try. For kids who loves all things silly, check out Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants with 70 million copies sold or the Bad Kitty series by Nick Bruel. Just like you and me, finding a favorite series or beloved author is a surefire way to keep the pages turning.
#3 Let’s Get Together – Millions of adults join book clubs each year for one simple reason; sharing a great story makes the experience even better. So why not try book club at home? Invite neighborhood kids over each week to read a book together. Get suggestions on titles, check for appropriateness, and let the kids vote. They can partner-read by alternating pages or read in a circle one by one. Struggling readers can take turns with paragraphs or even sentences. Kids benefit greatly from hearing one-on-one modeling of correct pacing, expression, tone and pronunciation of new vocabulary.
#4 No Question About It– Whether your child is partner-reading or reading independently, be sure to stop frequently for inquiries. Start with the basics: who, where, when, what? But don’t quit there. Delve deeper by asking the biggies: how and why. Questions that start with how and why introduce children to a more sophisticated set of comprehension skills (inference, prediction, categorization) and important critical thinking relationships between ideas (compare and contrast, cause and effect). Don’t allow kids to simply guess and move on; invite them to become Reading Detectives by searching for evidence in the text that supports their answers. Improving comprehension ensures more excitement on every page!
#5 See the Big Picture– As your child reads, ask him to visualize the story in his mind. Encourage her to describe the details she sees. Keep crayons and markers on hand to illustrate, making a valuable concrete image. Graphic organizers, like “Word Webs,” are another great way to create a solid picture of written words. Simply write the main idea or main character from a story in the middle of a page, then surround it with related details. “Story Maps” make good graphic tools as well; just sketch the main events of a story in the sequence in which they occur. Any way that children are able to diagram, chart, frame, illustrate, or graph a text is a reliable way to ensure comprehension.
Using these strategies can help reluctant readers become interested and keep avid readers right on track. Summer reading is the best way your child can maintain crucial skills and build on prior learning during the non-school months. And who knows, maybe your child will discover that reading is cool, even when the temperature soars.