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How to encourage summer reading

Make reading fun for your kids during the summer. photo: istockphoto.com

One of the best things about summer for me is a break from the constant nagging about homework and having to stick to a rigid nightly routine. However, research shows that our children greatly benefit from reading and practicing math during the summer. So how do we as parents respect our children’s need to “let loose” but also keep their skills sharp? Here are some tips to help find this balance and to make summer reading fun and interesting:

HAVE BOOKS ON HAND

One of the simplest and easiest ways to keep summer reading fun is to always have books available for your children to read. Summer days are a perfect time to head to the library and check out books. Neighborhood libraries also have summer reading programs where you can read for prizes, which works for some children who may need that extra push. If they are excited about a book or an author, it will be easier to get them to read — my son recently discovered David Walliams’s books, and now is begging me to buy more.

While on vacation, look for a local bookstore to peruse, and for long plane or car rides, try audio books. Our whole family enjoyed a set of Roald Dahl’s most popular books to the point they didn’t want to get out of the car without hearing the end of the story.

MAKE IT FUN

Now that you have the books, how do you make it fun? Encourage your children to book swap with their friends or relatives. This summer my children decided to do a book club with their cousins, and they all paired up and picked books for their reading level and then planned a fun day to meet up and chat about the book.

Another idea is to create a family reading challenge. If everyone decides on the challenge, whether it be number of books, hours read, or chapters read, you can all do something fun together to celebrate.

Last, find books that have become movies. Some of our favorites include Charlotte’s Web, Hugo, and The Tale of Desperaux. This fall one of my favorite children’s books, Wonder, is becoming a movie. Our rule is you must read the book before you can watch the movie, so this is great motivation.

BE AN EXAMPLE

Make sure your children see you reading and preferably not on your phone or a tablet. Show your kids you really enjoy a good book — and not just at bedtime, but as leisure time by the beach or curled up on a blanket on a nice summer day.  I recently realized that usually the only time I can find time to read is right before bed, which is great, but my kids never see that.

One of the best gifts we can give our kids is time and attention. What better way to do that than to read with them or to them every day? I love reading my kids’ books with them or to them because it provides great opportunities for discussion. It also helps to know what kind of books they are interested in so I can help them to be always looking for their next book.

MAKE THE TIME

Try to keep up some of the same routines you have during the year when it comes to reading. If your children read for a certain amount of time during the year, help them find the time to keep that up. Carving out reading time will help prevent them from falling into bad habits and patterns — like reaching for a device instead of a book. If your days are full of camps and activities, try to make time before bed for them to read. Or maybe your days start later in the summer and it is easier for your children to read in the morning when they are fresh. Varying the routine also helps, so some days maybe they read quietly to themselves and some days you read a book together as a family. The most important thing is making the time to read.

I love to read and wish I had more time to do it, and I would love for my children to develop that same love of books. This can happen, but these days books are competing with iPads, iPhones, video game consoles, and computers, which is tough. As parents, anything we can do to make reading cool helps. Ideally, after a few weeks your kids will get in a routine and be enjoying it so much they won’t even realize all the benefits their brains are getting from reading over the summer.

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Liz Farrell is the mother of three young children. Formerly, she was a television producer in Washington, D.C. and in San Francisco. E-mail: liz@marinatimes.com