It seems as if the moment the school year comes to an end, it's time to think about summer reading. The fear of the infamous “summer slide” (or loss of academic gains during the summer months) causes many parents to stock up on summer reading tools to ensure that kids stay on track for the upcoming school year.
While honing those reading skills is always a good idea, the urgency to beat the summer slide can make summer reading a stressful experience for both kids and parents. A better approach is to make reading fun.
Many kids love to read and naturally gravitate toward their favorite books during quiet moments. But some have a more difficult time with reading or simply love other areas of academics more, and they might need a little help putting the fun into reading.
Reading shouldn't be a source of stress during the summer months. The beauty of reading is that books take kids on adventures and open their eyes to new concepts. Even if your child struggles with reading during the school year, he can still find ways to enjoy it during the less stressful summer months.
It's tempting to set aside a certain time of the day for reading, as structure sometimes increases accountability. But kids need flexibility during the summer months. School days are scheduled down to the minute. Having the freedom to read independently can increase the relaxation factor while decreasing overall stress related to reading.
The keys to increasing reading on the fly are allowing for plenty of downtime and placing book baskets in various rooms in the house and even outside.
If your child's day is completely scheduled every single day, it's difficult to find time for sitting back and getting lost in a book. Make sure your child has adequate time to read (and not just at night, which can be particularly difficult for struggling readers, who are likely to be tired at the end of the day).
Book baskets with rotating books and themes placed around the house make it easy to reach for a book and flop down to read. An outside reading nook with beanbag chairs and a snack table makes for a fun afternoon of reading under the summer sky.
Host a sunset reading party
Get the whole neighborhood in on the summer-reading fun by hosting a sunset reading party in your backyard! Ask friends and neighbors to bring a favorite book, a blanket, and a yummy dessert to share as kids get cozy under the sunset and read together.
Reading in groups helps increase the excitement and gives kids a chance to share their favorite books.
Ask parents to bring a book as well to model good reading habits for the kids. Getting the whole family involved makes the party that much more fun!
Skip the reward programs
Earning stuff is fun, but it can also add an element of pressure. I don't know about you, but I love the feeling that comes with reaching the end of a great story. For me, finishing the book is the greatest reward. I want my kids to share that experience.
Trying to check off an endless list of boxes just to get the end of a summer reading challenge can be an overwhelming task for young readers. It can also cause them to race through the reading without actually enjoying it. Skip the challenges this summer and focus on reading as a family instead.
Let them choose
There are endless lists making the rounds on social media when it comes to “must reads” by age and stage. While a little guidance might be useful as your child shows little interest in reading, giving your child the power of choice ensures that your child will actually enjoy the material.
So what if your child only chooses books about penguins? He's still reading, and a follow-up trip to your local aquarium is a great way to reinforce what he learns in the books.
Kids know what they want to read. Some get lost in stories about fairies, while others prefer fact to fiction. That's OK. Summer reading shouldn't be about reading what everyone else is reading. Summer reading should be about reading what makes you happy.
Get out there and read!
Image via Flickr/San José Public Library