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  • Writer's pictureJohna Toomey

How to Encourage Your Child's Summer Reading


Tips for making your child's summer reading easier and more fun.

As parents, we know that summer reading, whether we are reading to our child or encouraging them to read independently, improves their reading comprehension, vocabulary, general knowledge, and writing.

But did you know that recent studies suggest that reading also improves students’ academic performance across subjects (e.g., science, math, history, etc.), standardized test scores, as well as social skills?

A study by the Institute for Education found that pleasure readers, who had read often at the age of 10 and had been reading books and newspapers more than once a week at age 16, had a 14.4% advantage in vocabulary and a 9.9% advantage in math. Worth noting, the study also found that reading for pleasure had a greater impact on student’s academic success than having a parent with a college degree.

If you find that data as compelling as we do, here are some ideas on how to make a summer reading plan and to encourage your student to get started:

1. FIND THE RIGHT READING MATERIAL

Experts say helping your student develop a life-long habit of leisure reading hinges on them developing their reading identity, i.e. finding the types of books they like. For some children and teens, a little discussion and research might be helpful in doing this. First and foremost, it will be important for your child/teen to pick books that they are truly excited about reading, and it will be worth some effort to identify those needles in a haystack. This is particularly true if the books you find are part of a series or if the author has written multiple books.

If your child or teen has a favorite movie adapted from, or inspired by, a book, it would be an excellent place to start their summer reading list. Discussing their interests with a librarian for recommendations is often helpful. Also, asking their friends (or friends’ parents) what they are reading can often result in some useful ideas. Another great way to find new authors and genres is to post a message to a local parents’ listserv or Facebook group with your student’s favorite authors or topical interests, asking parents who have children or teens with similar interests if they have other recommendations.

In addition, there are a plethora of websites with great reading lists:

Common Sense Media is a terrific resource for dozens of book lists and you can use their search tool to read reviews and a summary of the content. Brightly also has some great book lists organized by age group. For additional information on the book, you can also search the title at Amazon, skim a free preview, and check out the reviews.

If your student has a favorite magazine or publisher, check their website for a summer reading list or summer reading challenge. For example, the Week Junior posted a nice booklist this summer and Scholastic has a fun summer reading program. Teens may want to check if any celebrities they follow have a summer book list.

Or, for more a curated service, try out a free account at Good Reads. After answering a few questions, the website pulls together a list of recommended reading based on what other readers like.

2. CREATE OPPORTUNITIES TO READ

Now, you may be thinking, my child never has time for summer reading – they are always too busy! If this sounds like you, it might be helpful to think through their day and whether there are any short reading opportunities during it so you can strategically place their summer reading books so they have them on hand. For instance, keeping a book in the back of the car or in the bathroom are great ways to carve out some reading time. Generally speaking, reminding them to grab a book anytime you are leaving the house is a good rule of thumb, so they can read while waiting in line at a restaurant or at a doctor’s appointment.

Creating a cozy, well-lit reading nook or area at home can also be helpful. You could also consider checking with your local library to see if they have a summer reading program. Some children enjoy reading in the library where everyone else is reading or participating in a summer reading program where they can keep a reading log and compete for prizes or certificates.

Needless to say, most of the places/times that they could be reading, they may opt instead to look at screens, so if you have a younger child, you may have to consider restricting screen time to strategically cultivate a little boredom and their desire to pick up a book. For this and other reasons (many children thrive on consistency and routine), you could also consider setting up a summer schedule for your child which allocates a certain amount of free reading time. For preschoolers who are giving up their nap, or really at any age, you could consider instituting a 30 minute “quiet time” when they (or the whole family) read quietly.

3. READING TOGETHER

We hear a lot about the importance of parents reading to their children as babies and toddlers, but what about once they are school-age? Teen? Does the need to read to them stop? We would argue, no. It’s great fun, wonderful bonding, and academically enriching to read to your child at bedtime for as long as they will put up with it!

For many children, they will enjoy this (with the right books) all the way to middle school. As they get older, this “family” reading time might need to look a little different. Instead of reading in bed, for instance, you might try taking turns reading to each other in the living room, on the patio, or at a picnic. And if they don’t want to read fiction, maybe you could try reading and discussing the newspaper or a news magazine.

Reading to them has another important benefit – you can introduce books that they might not read on their own, but would enjoy listening to. And these types of books often are the most beneficial in terms of character exploration, writing style, and vocabulary. For a great list of books for elementary, middle, and high school students which fit this bill, check out the National Endowment for Humanities’ Summertime Favorites.

4. SHOWING THEM HOW ITS DONE

If they see you reading a book, they will see it as a pastime that you value, making it more likely that they will value it too. Think about where you do your reading and what they are seeing. Are you only reading on a Kindle or in bed after they have already gone to bed?

Consider opportunities to read a physical book, newspaper, or magazine in front of them every day. Strategically position your book in the car for the waiting room too. Take fun trips to the library or bookstore. Let the book that you are reading lie around in sight. Talk about the book you are reading at the dinner table. You get the picture!

As an added bonus, all that reading has similar cognitive benefits for you in the long term, including by staving off dementia and reducing your risk of Alzheimer's.

5. TALK ABOUT YOUR READING WITH THEM

Another great way to encourage their summer reading is to talk about what you are reading and ask them questions about what they are reading, too. Yes, even if (especially if!) that means listening to a 15-minute blow-by-blow account of some mermaid’s adventure or whatever their current enthusiasm is. The more excited they are about their reading and see that others are interested/excited too, the more they will want to keep going, on to the next book, and then on to the next one after that.

Besides being a terrific way to get to your child to learn about what interests them, students who talk about their reading with family and friends on a weekly basis had higher average standardized test scores than students who talked about their books once a month or less.

If you want to give your child even more opportunities to discuss their favorite books, consider finding them a book club or a class focused on their favorite series. (Contact Learn Thrive Grow if you can’t find the right book club and don’t have time to set it up – we can provide a tutor who could customize a book club for your child and his/her friends!)

6. FOR BEGINNING READERS OR THOSE WITH LEARNING CHALLENGES

If you have a beginning reader or a child with a reading disability, practice reading is critical, but, concurrently, exposure to high-interest, higher-level reading material is also very important. So that even as they are improving their reading skills, they are maintaining their interest in reading (seeing the payoff at the end of their hard work learning to read) and picking up the great vocabulary and ideas that they will only hear in books. For this reason, you may wish to consider reading to them even more frequently and providing them access to audio books and/or an Audible subscription.

How about students for whom reading comprehension is a challenge? It may take longer to find a topic or character you think they will find compelling. Try nonfiction or stories about students who have their own challenges like Wonder. Try reading to them and see if their auditory comprehension is better.

Find a book you think might interest them for which a movie has been made. See if it helps to watch the movie first, then listen to the audio version and/or read the book to them.

Have fun reading this summer, and if your child or teen needs tutoring help with reading (decoding or comprehension) this summer, please don’t hesitate to contact us, we’re here to help!

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