Six ways to encourage summer reading for kids

Summer reading is a treat for some kids, and a chore for others. Here are ways parents can help encourage reading and make it a fun activity during summer vacation free time.

Erin McCracken/The Evansville Courier & Press/AP
Samuel Piechocki, 6, shows an animal encyclopedia to his mother, Ellen Piechocki and brother, Christian Piechocki, 7, as they browse the shelves for this week's library books at the Alexandrian Public Library in Mount Vernon, Ind. on Tuesday, May 27.

It’s finally summer vacation for many kids across the country, which means staying up late, going to the beach, hanging out with friends, and sleeping in. But for some kids, it also means catching up on reading for fun and enjoying their favorite books. 

Unfortunately, many kids have a long list of required summer reading that they usually only start a couple days before school begins (or use Spark Notes to skim through their assigned reading). 

As a teacher, I always encourage parents and students to continue to read over the summer. As much as I appreciate seeing students getting excited over using technology in the classroom, I love it when students choose to read independently or read to one another in the reading corner.

When I was younger, I took my summer reading time quite seriously – getting comfortable, having a drink and snack nearby – and would get irked by people who interrupted my precious solitude. I would often stay up all night long during the summer reading my favorite books. 

Sadly, I have noticed that many kids I know these days rarely read for fun. They would rather play on their iPads or watch YouTube videos. 

Parents can help encourage reading for fun and support their children’s literacy development over the summer in several ways.

Read to your children at a young age 

As soon as your baby arrives is an ideal time to start reading to them. Studies show many benefits to reading to newborns. Singer Dolly Parton has a reading program called Imagination Library where children receive a free book every month, depending on their location and eligibility. Eligibility is based on age – from birth to age 5 and locations are predetermined based on whether or not the county or town has local affiliates that manage and fund the program. My 17-month-old daughter has received a book every month from Imagination Library since she was born. Older kids can look forward to a “surprise” book in the mail just for them every month, addressed with their own names, adding a personal touch that singles out older readers. 

Freebies for readers

Pizza Hut started the “Book It!” program in 1984, when the company’s president started the program to encourage his own son’s reading. Thirty years later, parents who once participated in the program will be happy to learn that it is still rewarding kids for their voracious reading habits.

Book It! rewards students with a free one topping, personal pan pizza when they achieve the reading goal their teacher has set for the month. The program also offers a a summer reading challenge where kids can register online and explore reading with fun activities and games, and use the #BOOKITSummer hashtag on Instagram to participate in a scavenger hunt. 

Make your local library or bookstore a home base for reading adventures

Many libraries and book stores across the country have fun and special summer programs. For instance, Barnes and Noble has a summer reading program where kids can earn a free book by reading several books and recording online their books read. 

Check out your local book store’s web site to see if it has a weekly story time for children, and review your local library’s special summer programs, perfect for filling long summer days with some down time beating the heat with a good book. 

Add to the world record for minutes spent reading

Educational publisher Scholastic is trying to set a world record this summer for reading, hosting the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge, taking place from May 5 through September 5. 

As of June 9, readers registered for the challenge had already read more than 119 million minutes. Parents can make the Scholastic challenge a fun competition between their children to see who reads the most books over the summer. 

Embrace the written word on digital pages

Kids love technology, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are lots of educational apps that encourage reading, plus Apple’s iTunes library has many free books available for download. Google Play and Amazon also offer free book downloads as well. 

E-readers can be fun to use while traveling. Also, audible.com lets users download their favorite books onto their smartphones as audiobooks to listen to them.

Be your kids’ reading role model

If your kids see the way you value reading, so will they. If they see you on your iPhone and laptop all day long, then they will most likely want to do the same. A recent Common Sense Media study reports that children who read often usually have parents who read and set time aside for their child to read every day. 

Encourage your children to read over the summer, from all different sources, including newspapers and magazine, and books, and even online sources as well.

Reading should be fun and enjoyable for everyone, and supporting children’s literacy development begins at home. Take time in the summer to encourage your child’s reading skills and to nurture a love of reading for the entire family that will last longer than a few short months and into the school years ahead.

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