The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: 10 Ways to Encourage Children to Read Summer Book Lists

Thursday, June 14, 2012

10 Ways to Encourage Children to Read Summer Book Lists

Summer time is here!  Sun, fun, swimming, barbecues, camping, fishing, and .... da da da daaaa....summer reading lists.  What?  Your kids don't want to do the required reading before fourth grade?  They have better things to do than read a book when the sun is shining and the fish are biting? The latest research shows students who read at least 4 books over the summer maintain or even increase their vocabulary and reading skills.  Here are some ideas to help your children appreciate the value of reading during the summer, even if their incoming teacher did not send them home with a list of books.
  1. Model.  If I could offer only one way to encourage kids to read, it would be to read yourself.  I have fond memories of sitting in my back yard with my mother as she read her novel and I read my library book. 
  2. Create a summer reading club.  Invite others in the same grade and reading level to come over once a week to discuss the book they're reading.  It doesn't have to be the exact same book!  In fact, having all the kids read different books will encourage the others to pick up that book, as well.
  3. Keep a chart.  Have your children make a chart of the books they have read. When they have finished a book, they can add a sticker to their chart.  They will love seeing the progress they made. I'm not an advocate of competition, but it helps to see if you're beating your sister in the race to the end of the chart!
  4. Read aloud.  Your childen will get just as much out of a book if you read aloud, even if they are perfectly capable of reading on their own.  This will motivate them to continue the story long after you have finished reading them the first chapter.
  5. Make it fun.  Each time your child finishes a book, put another star on a dark blue poster board. Have fun making constellations, which will encourage the completion of a number of books.  For extra fun, see if you can categorize the books into the constellations - books about bears for ursa major, for example.
  6. Join the library reading incentive program.  Most local libraries have incentives for summer reading.  Find out what your library does for the children in your area.
  7. New words wall.  Make a treasure hunt of new words.  When you child comes across a new word, help him or her to define the word, then post it to your word wall (refrigerator door?). Encourage use of the new words throughout the summer.
  8. Encourage variety. Try to get your children to read different genres: Fiction, nonfiction, biography, science, history, mystery, etc.  Categorize the books they read so you can see where their interest lies.
  9. Make your own list. Kids love to have control over their own lives. (Don't we all!) So, instead of simply using the school's suggested reading list, intersperse that list with your child's own list of books.  Go to the library and get some ideas.  Look online for book reviews for children.  Or shop at yard sales for great summer reading bargains.
  10. Reward. This is way far down the list because I don't think children should receive monetary or food rewards for a job well done. However, if this is the only way to jumpstart your children's summer reading, then offer a small monthly reward - ice cream treat, $1 on a debit card for each book read, or set of three books for younger readers (to be used at the end of summer), etc.  As an alternative, if there is a movie based on the book, tell your kids you'll take them to see the movie when they finish the book!  Compare notes after the movie.
Books will open your child's world to a new dimension.  Remember to "catch 'em being good."  If you find your child reading a book, wait until he puts it down, then give him a pat on the back for reading for the past half hour.  Positive reinforcement goes a long way to encouraging a continuation of that positive behavior.

And I would be remiss if I didn't recommend my own books for children (and one from a friend):
  • PreK-2nd grade: Ducklings in a Row - Will Duck 10 ever get to lead the line?
  • Grades 3-8: Woody's World - The story of one boy's efforts to help his family during The Great Depression.  Based on a true story.
  • Grades 2-6: Somebody Cares! - A young girl plans a very special birthday party.
  • High school: Crash into Me by Al Borris - Four misfit teens on a suicide mission discover the meaning of life. 
Happy parenting!

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