I feel lucky to have a son who made great progress last year in school, but as a mom and an educator, I still worry about the summer slide. Reading can be particularly hard — or simply uninteresting — for many kids, and trying to convince them to read during the summer months can be a real challenge. Even the elementary school set has earned time off to relax and recharge, and no one wants to battle during the summer about anything, let alone something that can (and should!) be as enjoyable as reading.
So how do we get our kids to keep building literacy skills through the summer?
Sometimes, reading practice comes in the clear form of “let’s read now.” In other situations, reading is embedded in another activity and is part of accomplishing a different task. At our house we read a book or two before bed every night, but a lot of the summer reading practice we do is hidden in plain sight. Whether you have a reluctant reader or not, here are a few suggestions to keep your kids reading all summer long.
Learn to code at code.org
If you have a kid who loves video games but doesn’t feel as inclined to take time to read, why not find a way to integrate online gaming, reading, and basic computer programming? Spending time at code.org is a great way to do all three — and at absolutely no cost. There are basic games for even the littlest readers and complex coding challenges for advanced learners. With themes like Minecraft for the code, the time spent reading and problem solving can feel very much like an extension of their already-existing online world.
Spend some time in the kitchen
If you have a kid who loves to eat, the slow days of summer are the perfect time to try new recipes. The trick is to make your little person do all the recipe reading and ingredient fetching. As a bonus, this is another way to also integrate some math as your little person measures and scoops. Make a half or double batch for even more advanced learning.
Try magazines or graphic novels
We are huge fans of both in our house. Sometimes, the idea of reading a whole book can feel overwhelming to a reluctant reader, no matter the length of the book. For some kids, convincing them to read a magazine, or even part of a magazine, will be a much easier sell. Graphic novels can similarly draw in reluctant readers due to the high volume of images per page, often decreasing reading anxiety and increasing interest level. Our family favorites include Highlights Magazine, which comes in multiple age levels, and both the Dog Man and Hilo book series.
In general, flexibility around what your child reads is key. Many studies show that children who feel they have control over what they are reading are more likely to read and to do so for longer periods of time.
Make use of the dollar bin
One of reasons I go into Target for toothpaste and emerge with a sales receipt a mile long is the dollar section at the entrance. In addition to the fact that there are often fun, applicable-to-learning items in there, the small toys, books, and craft items in the bins make excellent summer reading prizes. We found them incredibly useful as potty training prizes years ago, and they make equally good reading prizes.
Explore OverDrive through your local library
OverDrive is an easy way for your family (including you!) to borrow digital content, be it ebooks, audiobooks, music, or videos from your local library. I’ve known many reluctant readers who have been much more inclined to read an ebook than a paper text. Perhaps it’s about the love of electronic devices. However, for some neurodiverse readers, the ability to increase the font size of an ebook or to create high-contrast may help engage them in reading simply because it will make reading easier.
Additionally, taking an ebook out of the library means you don’t need to actually get back to the library to return the book. Your kids will get access to hundreds upon hundreds of titles and be able to find the ones they like — and you avoid purchasing new books or paying late fees. Everyone wins!
Model reading yourself
Quite frankly, many studies show that the best way to get kids to read (well, to do anything, really) is to let them see you doing it, too. For your summer reading, pick up a magazine or use OverDrive if making your way through a paper text isn’t your style. My son loves flipping through the pages of a magazine with me or reading the titles of the books I’m in the middle of (Erika Sanchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, for example) and asking what they are about.
Our kids work hard during the year and deserve to have fun all summer. But it is absolutely possible to combat the summer slide and have fun with reading at the same time!