One of the best parts of summer is getting a break from the constant nagging about homework and having to stick to a rigid nightly routine. However, research shows we can’t let it all slide — there are real benefits to spending a little bit of time everyday reading and practicing math. So how do we as parents give our children much-needed downtime while also keeping 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 easiest ways to keep summer reading fun is to always have books available for reading. Summer days are perfect to head to the library and check out books. Libraries also have summer reading programs where kids can read for prizes, which does work 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 books Walliams has written.
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 box set of Roald Dahl’s most popular books to the point we didn’t want to get out of the car without hearing the end of the story. The key is to always have books available for your children to read.
MAKE IT FUN
Now that you have the books, how do you make it fun? Encourage your children to do a book swap with their friends or relatives. This summer my children decided to form a book club with their cousins and they all paired up and picked books for their reading level then planned a fun day to meet up and chat about the books.
Another way to make it fun 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 become movies. Some of our favorites include Charlotte’s Web, Wonder, and Harry Potter. Try to get your children to read the book before they watch the movie.
BE AN EXAMPLE
Make sure your children see you reading and preferably not on a phone or tablet. Show them that 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 I realized my kids never see that.
One of the best gifts we can give our kids is our time and attention, and what better way to do that than to make a concerted effort to read with them or to them every day. I love doing this, 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 be on the lookout for their next read.
MAKE TIME FOR IT
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 time for this will help prevent them from falling into bad habits and patterns such as always reaching for a device instead of a book. If your days are full of camps and activities, then try to make time before bed for them to read. Or maybe your days start later in the summer and it is easier for them 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 together. The most important thing is setting aside the time to read.
I would love for my children to develop the same love of books that I have. This can happen, but these days books are competing with iPads, iPhones, video game consoles, and computers, which can make it tough. As parents, anything we can do to make reading cool and interesting helps. Ideally, after a few weeks your children will be in a routine and hopefully enjoying it so much that they will forget all the benefits their brain is getting from reading over the summer.
Liz Farrell is the mother of three children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive conversations around social media and technology. Email: [email protected]