Bookworms make fine pets
Long summer days are ideal for sharing the magic of books with your children.
If your school or public library is conducting a vacation reading program, by all means enroll the children. If not, there are numerous things you can do to keep your young readers progressing.
Try to visit your public library or bookmobile twice weekly with the children. Let these be pleasant, relaxed occasions with ample time for browsing. Don't worry if the armful of books a child chooses contains some you feel are too easy or too difficult. Children love to return to old favorites. And, if interest is sufficient, a youngster will benefit from a book even if he or she has to skip difficult words.
But do be concerned about the quality, and arm yourself with lists of recommended titles. Your librarian can provide these and may offer further guidance if necessary.
A book-loving child will probably have little trouble selecting, but you may need to entice a reluctant reader by correlating titles with current interests -- animals, sports, ballet, or whatever. And try reading several pages or an exciting episode aloud. Often the child will take it from there. Who, for example, could resist reading E.B. White's ''Charlotte's Web'' after listening to the first few pages? Slow readers, too, often prefer paperbacks, probably because of the eye-catching covers and compact size.
Reserve at least 30 minutes daily, perhaps after lunch, for uninterrupted silent reading. Set a good example by reading a favorite juvenile book yourself. Later, your enthusiastic recommendation will probably ''sell'' a fine book that your children might otherwise miss.
Try for two books completed weekly, adjusted for book size and a child's ability. Incentives and recognition are helpful, so why not try a construction paper bookworm on a bulletin board or the refrigerator door? Let the child add one segment, labeled with author and title, for each book read. A book tree can be a variation of this idea, using leaves in place of body segments. Or write author and title on a 3-by-5-inch card. Let the child add a few comments, written by you if necessary, and file in an attractive box. Looking forward to sharing these when school convenes can be an added incentive.
Take a tip from experts, and place attractive books within easy reach everywhere about the house -- including the bathroom and the top of the TV. Pack books in picnic baskets and beach bags. Carry them in the car for reading aloud on long trips. Take an ample supply to the summer cabin for those rainy days and lazy hours when there's ''nothing to do.'' Away from television, a child frequently discovers that books are really great entertainment.
Are you planning a trip? Your library has books tailor-made to bring history and geography alive for your young travelers, whatever your destination. Marguerite Henry's ''Brighty of Grand Canyon'' and Irene Hunt's ''Across Five Aprils,'' a Civil War story, are excellent examples.
But at home or away, when time hangs heavy, ask your child to read to you while your hands are busy with other tasks. Listen attentively, without correcting or interrupting. And offer sincere praise and thanks when he or she is through.
Reading the same book the child is reading is another excellent strategy for boosting self-concept and reading ability. This leads to a nice sense of sharing and to heart-to-heart talks. The practice can be continued through high school and through the years to come.
Finally, remember that nothing has replaced the age-old custom of reading aloud to entice children into the world of good books, and to keep them there. If you've dropped this practice, why not revive it this summer? Remember Frances Hodgson Burnett's ''The Secret Garden''? And Mark Twain's ''The Adventures of Tom Sawyer''? And all those other cherished books that have stood the test of time? Add to these the old fairy tales, biographies, myths, and volumes of poetry, and reading aloud can open new exciting worlds for them to explore.
Plan now to make books an important, joyous part of your children's summer. There are few things you can do that will be more worth your time -- and theirs.