By Rebecca Burton
Summer’s here and you’ve made your annual checklist: Sunscreen? Check. Sandals? Check. Beach towels? Got ‘em. But while you’re going over the must-haves for the season, don’t forget the single most important thing your kids will need: something really great to read.
While relaxing on the beach (or at the pool or lake, or just under a shady tree) with a good book is one of life’s most delicious pleasures, study after study has shown that reading is one of the most essential things that kids can do when school’s out. A 2002 report from National Summer Learning Association states that children lose approximately two months of learning over the summer, meaning that come September, teachers will spend those first few weeks re-teaching kids what they already learned the year before.
“Motivating children to read throughout the summer is essential to building lifelong readers,” says Carol H. Rasco, president and CEO of Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), the nation’s largest children’s literacy nonprofit. “And reading is the doorway to all other learning.” With that in mind, how do you convince your kids to build reading time into their summer plans? Fortunately, RIF has come up with a number of ideas to help you make this summer a season of reading.
- Combine activities with books. Going to a baseball game? Head to the library and check out a biography about your child’s favorite player. Is summer camp on the agenda? See if the camp has a blog you can follow.
- Lead by example. Show kids that you love to read by picking up the newspaper each morning or sharing about something you’ve read, and they’ll understand that reading is important to everyone.
- Relax the rules. Summer is a time when children can read what, when, and how they please. Don’t set any requirements, and don’t force kids to read something they’re not interested in.
- Visit the library. It’s got thousands of books and audiobooks to borrow, computers to use, and magazines to leaf through. Make the library your “go-to” destination for the summer.
- Think outside the book. Recognize that reading can happen in many formats, from eBooks to magazines to online read-along stories. Check out www.rif.org/kids for great read-alongs and other fun games and activities designed to keep kids reading.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to this: read. Read together, read separately, read anywhere, read everywhere. It’s the surest way to make certain that your kids will start the school year off right.
More on children’s literature, authors and the art of storytelling:
Behind the Pages - Seven noted children’s book authors share their childhood memories and influences
Start Your Own Parent-Child Book Club - Book clubs are great forum for sharing ideas and nurturing a lifelong love of reading
What Makes a Great Children’s Book? – A look at why great children’s books strike a chord and stay with us through adulthood.
The Very Creative Children’s Book Author A Conversation with the inimitable Eric Carle.
Why Reading to Your Kids Works – Celebrated storyteller Jim Weiss discusses how sharing books and stories fosters deeper parent-child bonds.
Reading Begins at Home Partnership for Readinghelps parents help their children during the critical years of learning to read.
Reading to Two How and what to read to siblings.
Rebecca Burton is a writer/editor at Reading Is Fundamental and has been working in the children’s literacy field for the past twelve years. She loves to read, travel, and hang out on the back porch with her husband and their two-year-old daughter.