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Keep Your Kids Reading All Summer

Kids reading

Do you want to give your kids an advantage next school year?  One of the best ways you can help them succeed is to develop a reading program over summer break.  You can design one that is as simple or complex as your schedule allows.  Here are some strategies to get your started.

Option 1:  The Basic Summer Reading Program

Set a reading goal for your kids.  Depending on their age and reading ability, do you want them to read 10 books over the summer, 50, or somewhere in between?  Keep the bar high enough to challenge them without exceeding the realm of possibility.

Get your kids excited about awards for meeting incremental goals.  Receiving an incentive for every five books is a reasonable target.  We'll discuss what constitutes a desirable reward in just a bit.  Click here to download a free resource where your kids can track the books they read.  The download also includes an optional worksheet where your kids can write about the characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution of each story as well as draw a picture about their favorite part of the book.

The second easy option is to enroll your kids in a summer reading program through your local library.  The library will set the reading goals and distribute prizes once they are achieved.  Libraries often sponsor kick-off programs and special activities to keep your kids inspired and engaged.

Option 2:  The Intermediate Summer Reading Program

Reading is a great exercise for the brain and increases connectivity and white matter.  Not only is reading entertaining, but it also improves writing and vocabulary skills, reduces stress, builds empathy and analytical skills, boosts memory, increases knowledge, and helps with focus and concentration.  Better readers are also better writers.

The intermediate approach expands upon the goal setting and reward system of the basic program.  At this level, incorporate projects for your kids to complete for each book.  Here are a few ideas:
  • Design a movie poster based on the book
  • Book bag--fill a bag with items discussed in the book and explain how each article is related to the story
  • Shoe box diorama based on a favorite scene from the book
  • Cereal box book report  
  • Book character interview
  • Write a newspaper article based on a specific event from the book
  • Give the book a one-to-five-star rating and write a review
  • Write a letter to the author
  • Draw or paint a scene from the book
  • Rewrite the ending of the story
Doing a project based on a book helps develop reading comprehension and retention.  Instead of breezing through a story and forgetting about it within 24 hours, a follow-up project keeps your child's mind working and those gears of creativity and connection turning.

Option 3:  The Advanced Summer Reading Program

One question to think about is whether you want your kids to select the books they read over the summer or whether you want to create a bucket list of books for them to tackle.  On one hand, you want your kids to be involved in selecting books they enjoy reading, but you don't want them to pick too many easy ones. A good compromise is to incorporate both.  After reading three or four of their own choices, they must pick one from your reading list.

The Classic Starts Series contain many volumes of famous classic novels made easy for younger readers without sacrificing story quality.  Here are just a few examples:  The Time Machine, White Fang, Around the World in 80 Days, The Story of King Arthur and His Knights, Gulliver's Travels, The Swiss Family Robinson, The Last of the Mohicans, The Prince and the Pauper, and more!

Follow the link for the Classic Starts Series to find books your kids will love.

In the advanced program, you can opt to select books that fit into specific themes.  For example, do you want your kids to learn more about dinosaurs, space, politics, history, or the ocean?  Find books that fit each theme for a more in-depth study of your topics.

The advanced summer reading program incorporates extra extension activities.  Did you learn about dinosaurs?  Visit a dinosaur exhibit at a nearby Museum of Natural History.  If a beach vacation is planned for the summer, study the ocean ahead of time.  Search Pinterest for follow-up projects on space after reading all about it.  For example, if you studied the moon, try this oreo moon phases activity.  Care to learn about geology and rock formation?  Start a rock collection, visit a lake or creek and look for fossils, or invest in a rock polisher for the new hobby.

If your book list contains any of the Who Was series, such as Who Was Albert Einstein, Who Was Sir Isaac Newton, or Who Was Ben Franklin, integrate science experiments and STEM activities into their character study.  This is a fascinating and educational series for kids.

    (Paid links)

Check with your local library, YMCA, or recreational center to learn if any classes, workshops, or camps are being hosted that would pair nicely with one of your novel studies.

Reading Together

Your kids will spend the majority of the time reading alone, but be sure to select books that will be read together.  Not only is this a great way to spend time with your kids, but it gives you the opportunity to challenge their critical thinking skills.  Stop at critical points in the story to ask questions.  What do you think will happen?  What clues has the author given you to come to that conclusion?  How would you feel in this situation?  What would you do differently?

Drop Everything and Read

Drop Everything and Read is a sustained silent reading program in many schools that assumes kids will become strong readers by reading constantly.  When you need to cook dinner, clean the house, or just get the kids out of your hair over the summer, include the Drop Everything and Read in your summer reading program.  It might save your sanity.

Read in Different Places

Changing environments alters the reading experience.  Challenge your kids to find new places to lose themselves in books.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Book store
  • Beach 
  • Pond 
  • Coffee shop
  • Pool
  • Park bench
  • Cozy reading nook
  • Deck
  • Library
  • Hammock
  • By camp fire
  • In bed with a flashlight
  • In the car
  • Porch Swing

Reading Rewards

Kids thrive and are motivated by incentives.  Set milestones and reward them for their achievement.  The rewards can be both tangible and intangible, such as these:
  • Screen time privileges
  • Later bed time
  • Play date
  • Pass on chores
  • Visit to a special place like skate rink, park, zoo, or museum
  • Ice cream
  • New book purchase
  • Candy
  • Toy
You might want to ascribe a dollar amount to each completed book so your kids can save up to buy something they've been wanting.

Save your biggest rewards for the end of the summer upon completion of the reading goals.  Choose something special that fits within your budget, like a new Kindle, skates, bike, or Lego set.  

Books or Devices?

Kids love screen time and devices, but you know it's bad for them.  Pediatricians recommend two hours or less each day of it, so should you use them for reading?  Steer clear of ebooks on the computer, smart phone, or iPad.  These devices emit a blue light that damages the eye over time and can lead to macular degeneration at a younger age.

Old-fashioned paper or hardback books are best, but it is okay to permit reading from an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite because they do not emit blue light. 

Inspire Your Kids to Keep Reading

If your kids express an interest in a particular topic or author, keep those books in their hands.  They will be more willing to continue reading when they have the freedom to choose.  Roam through the library and book store and see what books catch their attention.  Scroll through Amazon and let them pick a few books to order.  Visit the library or participate in a book swap.  Go on a garage sale scavenger hunt to find gently used books that look interesting.    

You can combat summer learning loss by keeping your kids engaged in a fun reading program, complete with extension activities to boost brain power, and they will reap the academic rewards in the fall.

Share your answer in the comment section below!

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