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Reading over the summer is a great way to stop the summer “brain drain” and boost your child’s reading skills. According to studies, children who read benefit from bigger vocabularies, higher grades, and better job prospects later in life.
For some kids reading over the summer is easy, and they will plow through books as fast as you check them out from the library. But other kids might need a little encouragement. If your child isn’t a natural-born reader, don’t worry. Some readers are late bloomers, but there is a lot that parents can do to help awaken a love of reading.
So whether you are spending time at home, juggling sports, attending camps, or heading out for vacation, here are some ways to encourage your little reader.
Use car time wisely: Instead of using video games or videos to entertain your kids in the car, keep the back seat well stocked with books. This works well whether you are on a long road trip or running short errands. If you make a firm ban on using electronic devices in the car, those books will start to look even more attractive. If your child is prone to getting car sick, get some audio books you can listen to together. Audio books are also a great option for children who haven’t learned how to read yet.
You can also take things a step further and encourage your kids to bring along a book to read while waiting for their dentist appointment or for their sibling’s soccer practice to end.
The pros and cons of incentive programs: The jury is still out on reading incentive programs. The advantage is that they do increase the amount of books that students read, but the worry is that they don’t teach a love of reading. Studies have shown that incentive programs can cause people to classify the desired activity as work instead of fun, making it less likely for them to do it if there are no incentives. So incentive programs do get children to read more, and there are advantages to that, but it encourages students to read for the wrong reasons. As a result reading comprehension drops and once you remove the reward students are less likely to read than they were before.
Instead, studies are finding lots of success with programs that allow students to see adults reading for pleasure, that improve access to a wider variety of books, and that give at least 10 minutes a day to read silently.
But it is hard to deny that incentive programs are fun and we all love to get free stuff. So if you want to do an incentive program this summer, think about finding one that offers a free book for reading—enforcing the idea that books are the reward. For example, Barnes and Noble offers a free book to children who read 8 books over the summer.
Visit the library: Kids are more likely to read books that they pick out. Taking them to the library allows them to pick from a wide selection without cleaning out your wallet. Your local library is also likely to have summer programs, performances, and story times.
Don’t abandon routines: The best way to make sure you are reading to your child regularly is by setting a daily reading routine. Pick a time that works well for your family, whether it is before nap time, after school or at bedtime. If you already have a routine, don’t give it up once summer starts. It can be particularly hard to keep up routines while traveling on vacation, but the familiarity will be comforting for your children and it will help keep their reading skills sharp. So be sure to bring some of your child’s favorite books along or download them on your tablet.
Pick books at the right reading level: Reading isn’t fun if you have to stop to ask about a word a several times per page. When picking out books, you will want to steer your child towards book that are at the right reading level. Lots of early reader books indicate the reading level on the cover, but there are also some sites online that can help you determine the book’s reading level. For example, Scholastic has a free, online book wizard that allows you to look up a book’s reading level or to browse by reading level.
But even then, reading level can vary by age and grade level. So if you are unsure, have your child open up to any page in the book and start reading. If your child has to ask about three or more unfamiliar words per page, then the book is probably too advanced. Consider having your child wait to read it or read it together instead!