Raising a Summer Reader

Want to hook your kids on books this summer? Just like you prepare for vacation and sign up for camps, plan creative activities to spark your children’s interest in reading outside the classroom.

Research clearly shows that children who read over the summer enter the next grade better prepared than those who do not. To avoid the summer slide, build reading into your child’s daily routine, whether that means tucking books in your beach bag or going on a special outing based on a story.

“In the summer, look for those teachable moments, opportunities for literacy-rich activities-it’s not such a hard thing to do,” says Marilyn Smith, vice president and director of programs for Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), a Washington D.C.-based children and family literacy organization.

Reading Motivators

  • If your child is on a swim team, plays basketball or takes a drama class, find a book about the topic. Watch the wheels turn as she makes the connection between what she reads and what she does.
  • Check out books about your vacation. When you reach a landmark your child has read about, he’ll enjoy sharing his knowledge with the rest of the family.
  • Keep track of what your family reads over the summer and make a chart or scrapbook of your adventures. Young readers might be able to see the progression from beginner books to chapter books. Older kids might notice a pattern in the types of books they like. If you keep the scrapbook for several years, show them how much progress they’ve made, and how many adventures they’ve had with the reading they’ve done.
  • Try enrolling in a summer reading program at your local library. Many programs offer awards and recognition to kids for reading a certain number of books.

As you read together by flashlight in a tent or curled up in a hammock, don’t focus too much on sounding out words or correcting your children. Instead make the experience pleasant and positive so they feel successful and thus will look forward to reading together, advises Smith.

Get ‘Em Off The Couch

In order to stay healthy, kids need to be active. While reading is usually a non-physical activity, get kids moving by engaging them in a spin-off activity related to a book. Crank up the energy with some of these ideas:

Ages 2-5

  • Read a book about a farm or zoo and then visit one.
  • Find a gardening book, then plant vegetables or flowers.
  • Check out From Head to Toeby Eric Carle and stomp like an elephant, thump like a gorilla and more!

Ages 6-8

  • Before going to a baseball game, read about a famous player.
  • Look at a nature book and then hike in the woods or search a beach for shells.
  • Pick berries at a local orchard and read the classic story Blueberries for Salby Robert McCloskey.

Ages 9-12

  • Get a book on constellations and then trek out to an open field some evening with a blanket to gaze at the stars. If your community has an observatory, stay up late and look through its lenses.
  • Look up special recipes for cooking over a campfire and then try them at a campout.
  • Go to an outdoor screening of a movie and then read the book on which it was based.

Choosing Books

Kids are most interested in books they choose themselves. Don’t worry if they gravitate to popular fiction-these easy reads help develop fluid, confident readers. RIF offers some tips on what to look for:

Ages 2-5

  • Short, simple stories about everyday experiences
  • Text that repeats words and uses catchy phrases to encourage chanting along
  • Colorful books with pictures and just a few sentences per page

Ages 6-8

  • Books that young children can read on their own, with illustrations that give clues to unfamiliar words
  • Craft and cooking books

Ages 9-12

  • Subjects that interest your child – both fiction and nonfiction
  • Chapter books, biographies, trivia books, and stories with humor
  • Books with characters that solve problems and overcome odds

Hot Summer Picks

At the end of the school year, ask teachers for recommended reading lists. Here are some suggested titles and descriptions from Scholastic Inc., a children’s publishing and media company.

Ages 2-5

How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight by Jane Yolen
This lighthearted read-aloud bribes human kids to say goodnight like dinosaurs do-without moping, crying or demanding another story.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
A mother raccoon helps her son overcome his school scares in this sentimental picture book.

The Mitten by Jan Brett
When a child loses his mitten in the snow, it becomes a cozy home for woodland creatures in this retelling of a Ukrainian folk tale.

Ages 6-8

Corduroy by Don Freeman
A lost button leads to lovable adventures for a bear who longs for a home.

Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott
Discover how the moon ended up in the sky in this Caldecott-honored retelling of a West African traditional tale.

Half Magic by Edward Eager
When four children find a coin that grants wishes halfway, their escapades of misfiring magic create a funny chapter book that’s perfect for sharing with your beginning reader.

Ages 9-12

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl
Two delicious tales packed with humor, enchantment and people who get their just desserts!

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
Rediscover this fantasy classic about four children and what they find at the back of a wardrobe.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Drive into the classic land of wacky words and complex conundrums.