It’s almost the start of summer vacation. Already children are moping around whining about nothing to do. Parents are scrambling to fill the void left by closed classroom doors. Of course, closed doors don’t necessarily mean closed books.
With a little ingenuity and direction, parents can not only banish summertime boredom but can actually help children keep up their reading skills–all under the guise of having fun. Here are ten ways to keep your child reading this summer.
Create cozy spots for reading. Take a look at the different areas in and around your home. Are there little nooks or corners that would make good reading spots? All you need is good lighting, a few pillows, maybe some stuffed friends and, of course, something to read. Consider a secluded corner in the family room, that awkward spot under the stairs, or even the playhouse in the backyard.
Provide interesting reading materials. In order for reading to be fun, children must enjoy what they are reading. While we would all like our third grader to sit down and read a classic like Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, little Jimmy may be more interested in the adventures of the Box Car Children.
With your child, look at the books you already have in your home library and select a few to equip the reading spots you have created. In our home, we use plastic dishpans as “book buckets.” They hold a myriad of reading materials and are portable from one reading spot to another.
Visit the public library. Children love outings and the library is the perfect place to go and explore and to teach them all about reading. If your library sponsors a summer reading program, sign your child up. Children can earn prizes by reading a certain number of books. If your child is eligible, get her a library card. In this way, your child will develop a sense of ownership and will want to return to the library again.
Ask your Children’s Librarian for suggestions on reading material appropriate for your child’s age, reading level and interests. Books on favorite subjects are good starting places. Guide your child’s selections, but let him make the final choice, even if he chooses a book he already has at home. This will help shape the promise in every child. (There seems to be something more exciting about a library book.)
Subscribe to children’s magazines. Just like adults, children enjoy a variety of reading materials. There are many different magazines out there targeted to school-age children. You cannot underestimate the role of parents and family for literacy. The Children’s Television Workshop publishes a variety of educational magazines including Sesame Street Magazine, Kid City, and 3-2-1 Contact. The National Wildlife Federation publishes My Big Backyard and Ranger Rick. Others of interest include American Girl and Highlights.
Before selecting a magazine for your child, be sure to take a peek at an issue or two. The library often has copies available for use there. You can also preview a copy at your local newsstand or in major bookstores. Look at the reading level, the types of articles included and the print advertisements. If, at that point, you are still not sure whether your child will like the magazine, buy a test copy. See also this post about early childhood education for 3-4 year-olds.
Visit a bookstore. Give your child a few dollars and let him go on a “shopping spree.” Of course, you can always set a few guidelines to steer his purchases. Even when you have 1000 different volumes at home, there’s something about selecting and buying their own books that really motivates children and will get also very young children to read. Consider a used bookstore. Such stores sell used books for half-price or more. Often, you can trade books your child has outgrown for credit toward purchases. You can also find used children’s books at thrift stores.
Use your local newspaper. As you read the morning paper, look for articles that may interest your child. Perhaps she would enjoy reading about the exploits of her favorite sports team. Or consider the story about the ten-year-old who saved his mother’s life by calling 911. What about the story of the boy hit by a car while riding his bike? (No reason why you can’t sneak in a moral lesson at the same time.) Don’t forget the funny pages and puzzles often found there.
Take a reading vacation. If you are planning on traveling this summer, write or call for materials about your destination. Travel brochures and attraction flyers will not only prepare your child for the adventure ahead but will build his enthusiasm as well. Bear in mind that you, the parents, are your child first teachers! Consider books set in the location you are planning to visit. Look into historical figures who may have lived there.
For example, if your vacation will take you to Southern Florida, plan on visiting Thomas Edison’s summer home. Encourage your children to read a biography about Edison, or study one of his inventions. If you are not planning to go away this summer, select a spot you would like to visit someday or learn more about a local landmark. Bear in mind that children don’t always need to behave! You were young too, weren’t you? See also this post about Early Literacy Development.
Visit a local museum. Often we take our small, local museums for granted. There is a wealth of information hiding inside those four walls. In addition to reading the plaques and narratives describing the exhibits, your child can learn about the history of the area, and the historical figures that influenced it. Playing together with and for your children is also a fantastic learning opportunity for them. If the museum has a gift shop, look for books that you may use for storytelling and other reading materials that may interest your child.
Write letters. Help your child write to friends and relatives who live in another part of the country. Cousin Sue and Grandma Peggy are sure to write back–more writing-more reading and the cycle continues. Grandma, Grandpa or Cousin can also recommend classics they enjoyed as a child. When Mom suggests a book, “it’s too boring.” But when eight-year-old Samuel tells your child about the same “great book he read,” suddenly she’s interested.
Read together. In the days before the advent of television, families would often sit down in the evenings and read a good book aloud. Consider reading a classic together-perhaps one of the books you enjoyed as a child. Children are often put off by thick books, or those with small words, even when the vocabulary is on their level. By hearing great stories such as Heidi, Treasure Island or Little Women, your child may be encouraged to read others on his own. In any event, he will learn to appreciate good literature. Abridged versions of these classics are now available in paperback at book and discount stores.
These are only a few of the ways you can encourage reading this summer. Be on the lookout for others as they present themselves in your daily life. Don’t you also agree that storytelling should be included in school?