What’s the best way to keep your children learning during the summer? You guessed it─a nonstop parade of good books. With the strong pull of technology and outdoor fun, it may seem impossible for us to get our kids to sit still long enough to focus on a book. Regular library visits, a reward system, and some fun role-play after the summer reading session are just a few ways I recommend engaging your active brood in that most vital skill─reading.
Scheduling a library day, either weekly or biweekly, sets aside a defined time for books and reading. If my kids have finished with their books, we return them on library day and get new ones. If a child is still enjoying a book, we renew it or bring it along to read while at the library. Make sure that the children know your family’s reading philosophy and guidelines; then set them free to wander among the shelves. They may come back with a random assortment of treasures─a pop-up book, a book about robots, a volume of fairy tales, and a historical novel─but if they’re excited about what they found, it’s a win-win.
Tiny preschoolers and early readers enjoy having plenty of pictures to go along with the story, like the beautiful illustrations in A King for Brass Cobweb. The images help their minds engage in the action, stimulating their imaginations. Eventually, the child’s imagination is mature enough to go off on its own, automatically creating the scenes and characters found in books without pictures. One way to help your little one’s imagination grow is to help him or her draw a new illustration for part of the story.
Chapter by Chapter
Once children pass the picture book phase, chapter books like Mice of the Herring Bone transition them to stories that last beyond a single reading session. They have a sense of accomplishment as each chapter ends, blended with anticipation for the next phase of the story. Read to them, and encourage them to read to you as well. Some parents of reluctant readers like to reward completion of chapters or whole books with a sticker, a treat, a trip to the playground, or a little time with the tablet or TV.
For moms of girls, starting a mother-daughter book club or girls’ reading time yields a closer bond and plenty of precious memories. My sister and I vividly recall curling up in our bunk bed each night, listening to my mother read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. When I was older, I read the The Journeyman by Elizabeth Yates aloud to my mom while she cooked dinner every evening. To pique your daughter’s interest, find books that address current issues, such as Capturing Jasmina, with its thoughtful yet dramatic depiction of child labor and trafficking. Or look to the past and imagine what life must have been like in Old Testament times with the book Where I Belong.
For the Guys
Boys typically love action-packed stories. They also appreciate strategy, cleverness, and a fight for survival. Wartime struggles or wild westerns are perfect for teenage boys. If elementary-aged boys have trouble settling down to read, promise to act out the story with them after they read a chapter or two. For example, after reading part of Brave the Wild Trail, you might set up a cowboy camp in the backyard. Following a chapter of Jericho Ride, a father and son could create an obstacle course and make horses from branches or sturdy cardboard.
With boys and girls alike, associating imaginative play and outdoor fun with a great book brings them that much closer to a lifelong love of reading.
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Rebecca is a work-at-home freelance writer, novelist, wife, and the mom of two bright-eyed little ones. She credits her success in writing and her love of books to her own mom, who homeschooled three kids from pre-K through high school.