The summer is a critical time for struggling readers, as the break can allow them to gain ground. Why is summer reading important? If a child is behind and reads extensively over the summer, he can begin to catch up. This is especially true if the child can already decode.
Research is clear that children can lose up to three-months of progress over the summer. Teachers generally need to spend the first 4-6 weeks of school in the Fall reviewing. In addition, limited summer reading can have long-term effects. Those kids who read for leisure show the greatest improvements in comprehension, vocabulary and fluency and these benefits prove lasting. Yet, it’s difficult to get a struggling reader to read at all. How can a parent get their struggling reader to read over the summer?
When your student just wants to spend his days riding bikes and swimming with friends, there are certain tactics you can use to help him read. I’ve worked with parents that have implemented different strategies to get their children to read for leisure. There is also some research, though limited, on how to get kids reading more. Below, I’ve provided a synthesis of this information.
(Scroll below to find quick tips on how to get your child to read over the summer.)
I believe this is the single best tactic. Pick a time to limit all fun activities. No friends over. No TV. No outings. Get out those library books. Struggling readers will avoid reading if there is another fun activity available. Encourage your child to read, but don’t do anything else to solve the problem of boredom. Set a timer if you have to. Don’t give in to any requests like, “Can we go swimming?” Pick up a book and read yourself. Lead by example. You can also pick up your child’s books and begin skimming the pages. If you show interest in their books, they might too.
Even if this tactic doesn’t work the first time, implement it consistently about 2x a week for about an hour or two. If you create boredom enough times, your child will have no other option but to read books.
Even if you swear off the library when you have kids under five, try the library again once you have school age kids. Library books are more fun than books at home simply because they’re novel. The new content and pictures in library books can capture kids’ attention. You can pick a variety of books too so they can explore different genres. Variety allows kids to discover their interests. Maybe your child who usually obsesses over legos will show an interest in salamanders once he sees those colorful pictures in a National Geographic book for kids. Children with plenty of books at home are more likely to read frequently (The Kids and Family Reading Report, 2012).
Let them Choose Some Books
Of course, educators need to provide some assistance. Make sure kids pick leveled books. They can’t be too easy. They also can’t be too hard. However, if you sit down and guide them, you can let your child pick books at a higher level. If a child picks at least some books, he’ll relish the autonomy. Since he picked the books, he’s more likely to be interested in the content. According to the Kids and Family Reading Report (2012), 92% of kids say they’re more likely to finish a book they’ve selected themselves. What kids say and do are two different things, but I think this statistic shows that kids are more excited to read books they select.
Schedule Obligated Reading Time
While we want kids to read serendipitously, they oftentimes won’t. Schedule a time at least 2x a week for your child to read. If you keep the schedule consistent and follow the above tactics, he’ll push back a little less.
Get Family Members Involved
Tell family members about the importance of summer reading. Every time someone visits, ask that person to read to your child. Even if grandma just reads one book, she’ll convey the joy of reading. Set a pile of books next to grandma, grandpa or aunt and ask him/her to read a few books aloud to your student.
Getting some kids to read is tough. It’s not always easy, but the payoff is huge.
Tips to Encourage Your Child to Read Over the Summer:
- create boredom
- establish a daily quiet time
- schedule obligated reading time
- honor your child’s reading time (try to maintain consistency during vacations and family visits)
- select a wide variety of reading material (including comics & magazines)
- focus on high interest books; let your child select some books
- focus on quantity; pick lots of books in case some fail to interest your child
- communicate the importance of reading (read yourself)
- Ask family members to read aloud to your child
- get help if you’re child has significant reading problems