When parents ask me what their children should be doing over the Summer Vacation, most often they’re looking for a way to keep them reading. This is one of my favorite questions to be asked. I’m simply bursting with ideas. Children (and adults, for that matter) should always be reading. I may be biased, but I consider reading to be one of the most enriching activities ever. It’s one of my particular passions to instill a love of reading in my students, but I understand that some kids are (and may always be) reluctant readers. Here are some of my reading-based summer ideas:
- Have your child sign up for a Summer Reading program. Many libraries and bookstores have them. I know Barnes & Noble has a Summer Reading Program. Windsor Peak Press has amassed an excellent list of Summer Reading programs that provide incentives, like gift cards and free books. Playful Learning offers online Summer Book Clubs if finding something local is a problem. (Oh, and speaking of Playful Learning, they have their own ideas about how to encourage summer reading.)
- Pair a book with a movie! This is an all-the-time idea for reluctant readers. Have your child read the book first (or read it together or read it to him or her) and then watch the movie. Make the movie-watching an event, complete with popcorn, ice cream or some other special treat to help get them excited about finishing the book. Avoid movie novelizations, please! Afterwards, discuss the differences and similarities. Some good book and movie pairings (I’m vouching for the book; not necessarily the movie):
- The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (I was not a fan of the movies, but the books are enormous fun.)
- Holes by Louis Sachar
- Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
- The Adventures of Tintin: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s Treasure by Hergé. Alternatively, there is also a cartoon series based on many more stories in the series. You could do those in a read one, watch one pattern. (Note: some of the Tintin books contain controversial portrayals of foreign people, outdated political concepts and drinking. There’s also only one female character in the whole series. You might wish to discuss these factors with your children as they read.)
- Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
- Hoot by Carl Hiassen
- Matilda, The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and Giant Peach, etc., by Roald Dahl (Your kids will love these books anyway)
- Audiobooks! So nice I’m mentioning them twice. You may or may not know that some audiobooks are actually audioplays, where each character is played by a different actor. There are even sound effects, sometimes. I particularly enjoyed the BBC’s Lord of the Rings and Kenneth Oppel’s Airborn. (Trivia tidbit: Ian Holm, who plays Bilbo in the movie version, voices Frodo in the BBC audioplay!)
- Make reading a requirement before other, less mindful activities. Even if it’s just fifteen minutes before playing video games, it’s still fifteen minutes of reading. Alternatively, certain tablets like the Kindle Fire can be set so game-playing time is limited, but reading is not. I don’t know if this is the same for other devices.
- Read the book along with your child. I don’t mean in the read-aloud sense, but in the sense of being able to discuss the book with them. It won’t hurt to read some kid’s lit–I promise! There’s some good stuff out there. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to assess their reading comprehension at the same time. My favorite resource for finding children’s books is celebrity librarian (I know, a contradiction in terms!) Nancy Pearl’s Book Crush. I turn to this book again and again when I’m looking for something to read to my students, to suggest to them, or to purchase for the classroom. It’s organized by reader level first, then by interest, so it’s an investment that will last you through the teen years. For newer titles, check out Pearl’s blog.
- My last hint is a sneaky one. I do it all the time in my classroom. Are you listening carefully? Read the first book in a series aloud to your child, but only the first one. Then, provide them with the rest of the books in the series. I hooked at least four students by using this tactic with Chris Rylander’s Fourth Stall.
Thanks for reading!