There are a lot of different reasons to read. We read to learn and explore new things, to experience other cultures and lifestyles than our own, to entertain ourselves, and to escape from reality. We may choose to pick up a particular book simply because we find pleasure in reading…or we read because we are told to by someone in authority over us (such as parents or teachers). Some students gladly embrace the summer months as a chance to read, while others make a choice to avoid picking up a single book until the beginning of the next school year.
Ultimately, we know that summer reading is important, and that it plays a significant role in helping to prevent skills loss due to the summer slide. With the sudden interruption of education around the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I believe summer reading is more important than ever. But just because we know that reading is important, that doesn’t mean that our kids will want to spend the summer reading.
So the question becomes, how can we motivate kids of all ages to be active readers over the summer?
For some parents, the question of motivation isn’t a concern. If you have children at home who love to read, you probably won’t have any problems convincing them to set aside some time to read every day during break. This is what I was like as a kid. I would happily curl up in a recliner, a stack of books next to me, and dive into one great story after another for hours at a time. The main problem my parents had was getting me to focus on things other than reading during the summer.
But if you have a reluctant reader at home, motivating them to read over the summer might be difficult. If you’ve been struggling to engage your child in reading, you might consider checking out the article How Do I Get My Child To Read?, which I published on The Unapologetic Bookworm earlier this year.
Whether your readers are enthusiastic or reluctant, here are a few suggestions to help you encourage your kids to spend time reading this summer:
1. Develop A Summer Reading Routine
When summer arrives, you may find that your regular routine relaxes or, in some cases, vanishes entirely. Back when I was still teaching, I often found myself going from a very strict schedule to no schedule at all. As someone who desperately needs a routine in order to function, this was problematic for me on several levels…but especially when it came to accomplishing the tasks that I had saved for my summer break “to do” list. Ultimately, I found that I was less bored, far more productive, and much happier at the end of my vacation when I finally manged to come up with a daily routine.
While I’m not recommending that you try to maintain your normal schedule during the summer, it might help to set aside a specific time for your kids to read every day. This could be done at any time of day, but personally, I prefer setting aside time to read before bed. Not only is it a time of day that probably won’t be subject to changes and interruptions, but it also gives your child a beneficial break from looking at screens (phone, television, computer, etc.) before going to bed, something which may help improve the quality of their sleep.
Personally, I think summer reading routines are even more effective if summer reading becomes an all-inclusive family activity. Whether you are reading one book aloud as a family, or curled up on the couch reading your own individual books, consider setting aside a time when the whole family can get together and read. It’s good to tell your children that reading is important. But letting your kids see you taking time out to read shows them that reading is important, not just for them, but for yourself as well.
2. Encourage Your Children To Read Books Based On Their Interests
There are a tremendous number of things that compete for your child’s attention during the summer months, and reading sometimes seems boring in comparison. For this reason, it’s extremely important to encourage your kids to read things that interest them.
If you’re having a hard time finding books for your kids, there are a lot of great websites that provide lists of books that appeal to readers of different ages. Some lists focus on providing recommendations for readers according to age, while others might recommend books based on your child’s grade level. Just make sure to use these lists as a guide, not a “to read” list. Not every book will appeal to every reader, and it may take a few tries before your child finds a book (or series of books) that they love.
Novels, nonfiction, magazines, comic books, short stories, poetry, video game player’s guides…as far as I’m concerned, any reading done for pleasure is worthwhile. If your child wants to spend the entire summer re-reading a favorite series, I say let them go for it. They are still practicing their reading skills, and may notice new things as they read their favorite stories again.
3. Get Involved In Local Summer Reading Programs
I’ve always been a big fan of summer reading programs! They’re a lot of fun, and they do a great job of motivating kids and teenagers to read. Some of them are even open to adult readers.
Unfortunately, some of us may find it difficult to find a summer reading program to participate in this year. In my own state, libraries continue to remain closed for the foreseeable future, which makes finding a summer reading program somewhat tricky. But there are some libraries (and other local businesses) that have moved their summer reading programs online, so it’s worth checking out your library’s website even if the building is currently closed.
One of the things that is great about many summer reading programs is that they provide readers with incentives for reading. These could be anything from small prizes, like stickers and bookmarks, to free books. Some programs even give you the opportunity to be entered into drawings for larger prizes, such as gift cards and gift baskets. Your summer reading program may also provide your children with fun ways to track their summer reading, and enrichment activities that they can do at home.
4. Read the Book/Watch the Movie
There are a ton of great books for children and young adults that have also been turned into movies! Little Women, A Wrinkle in Time, and Dolittle are just a few of the family-friendly movies that have been adapted from books in the past couple of years. If there is a movie adaptation that your kids have been wanting to see, you could have them read the book first. You might also choose to read the book out loud as a family, and then watch the movie together when you are finished.
I hope that these ideas will be helpful to you as we continue to approach the end of the school year. If you’re interested in finding some great summer reading resources for your family, please come back tomorrow for a list of some of my favorites. I will also be providing links to several summer reading programs that are currently available (or will be available soon).
The following schedule contains links to previous summer reading articles. This schedule may be subject to change:
- Monday: Part One, The Importance of Summer Reading
- Tuesday (today): Part Two, Summer Reading Motivation
- Wednesday: Part Three, Summer Reading Resources
- Thursday: Part Four, Creating Your Own Summer Reading Program
- Friday: Part Five, Reading Incentives
- Saturday: POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2020 Update
- Sunday: Parts Six and Seven, Great Reads for Young/Middle Grade Readers and Young Adults
Do you have additional recommendations to help parents motivate their children to read during the summer? If so, I hope you’ll share them with our community of readers by leaving a comment on this post.