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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

10 Ways to Enhance That Summer Reading

When your kids were small, you read to them. That’s just something parents do. At first, it’s a good bonding experience. Then you begin to really understand what a good learning experience it is. Reading to a child clearly helps with language development, phonemic awareness, listening skills, comprehension skills, general learning and obviously learning to read.

So why should this stop just because they are older? OK so maybe they don’t want to curl up on the couch with you to read anymore but there are ways to enhance the reading skills of older children.

1. Show interest in what they’re reading. Make sure you know the types of book they like, subjects that interest them. Ask questions and encourage discussion.

2. Every once in awhile read the same book as your child. That way you can talk with your child about the book. Expand your questions to include character, setting, plot, conflict, climax and ending. Don’t read every book they read because they will see that as an invasion. Summer reading is perfect for this because during the school year, teachers guide them through books (almost too much sometimes to the point where they end up hating the book, another subject for another time) so some kids might need a little extra help or encouragement to get through a book on their own. Summer reading book are usually books they are not their choice therefore not real personal to them.

3. If the summer reading book is on audio, get it. Fill those long car rides to and from summer activities listening to something productive. Make sure is it the unabridged edition. And check out the library. That way is doesn’t cost you and arm and a leg.

4. Just like homework, you have to provide an atmosphere that is conducive to reading. If you have a child who is obsessed with video games, computers or TV, cut them off. Put limits on those things. Kids need structure just as much in the summer. However, don’t make reading time too formal or they might balk at it. The idea is to make reading more natural rather than forced.

5. Encourage fun summer reading. This includes magazines, newspapers, comics and internet articles. All reading has value even some of the most questionable material such has Mad (which I personally love for older middle schoolers) or superman comics. You want to child to read challenging material that will improve their vocabulary but reading mindless material is ok too. We all pick up People Magazine in the doctors office every so often, it’s a quick easy read.

6. Set a good example. Let your child see you reading.

7. Drag them to the library or bookstore several times over the summer. Encourage them to pick out something that they are interested in. At the very least, you are exposing them to a library/study/research atmosphere. Knowing how to behave in and use a library properly is a skill they will need for success in high school and college.

8. Have your child bring books with them so whenever there is down time they're able to read and get something productive done. Some suggestions are: car/plane/train rides, trips to the beach, while waiting to pick up your other children at activities, rainy days

9. Try to get through the assigned reading early in the summer so they have time to make some fun summer reading choices. This also alleviates stress at the end of August when the reading/projects are not complete.

10. Hit the used book stores, used book sales and even garage sales, looking for used books. Sometimes you can pick up a bag of books for a buck. Even if your child only looks at on book in the bag, you’ve gotten your money’s worth. It can actually be a lot of fun perusing old books. This also adds a nice variety to your library.

If you don’t think the books are appropriate for your child in terms of reading level or topic, speak up. Talk to the teachers about alternatives immediately. However, if teacher’s choices are just books that you or your child don’t like, do your best to help them get through the books (and follow up paper or project “aggggg” if there is one). Do not put down the teachers choices in front of your middle schooler (or even younger child). In high school and college they will have to read a lot of things that are not of interest but important. Reading challenging and varied material is how children continue to develop their adult vocabulary.

Summer reading should be enjoyable, relaxing and somewhat natural. Some kids will just not want to read. Try to find out why reading isn’t coming easy for them and see what you can do about it. However, make your expectations clear. Summer reading is important and it is their responsibility.

1 comment:

Andy said...

Nice list. I appreciate this perspective. Parents who read give their kids a huge leg up.