It's here. Summer.
Sunshine, time outside, no schedules. It's what every kid lives for. It makes the nine grueling months of school totally worth it.
But for teachers and parents, summer brings with it something else - the dreaded "summer slide." The summer slide is the regression of skills experienced over the summer when kids aren't consistently engaged in something school-ish. Reading is one of the areas that typically slips down the slick slope of summer. But it doesn't have to. Here are seven simple - I mean really simple - tips to help even the most reluctant reader feel good about picking up something to read over the summer.
STOP COUNTING. I know it seems counterintutive. But please, stop the counting. Stop the counting of books, pages, minutes. Reading is not a competition. It is not a race. Attaching numbers to it - especially in the summer - makes it feel like a chore or an assignment instead of something to be done for pleasure.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOOK. Reading is reading, whether it's a 1000 page epic, a sports magazine, or the menu at Starbucks. If your kid loves books, then have them read a book. If they had reading, help them find something they like to read: a blog, a magazine, the comics in the newspaper. The goal is reading regularly, not matter what it is.
YOU DO IT. When I hear parents complain about their kid not reading, I always ask, "Do you read?" And then I follow that up with, "Does your kid see you read?" Whatever behavior we want to see out of our kids - be it patience, kindness, generosity - we need to show them how. Think about setting aside a time when you turn off the TV, put your phone on the charger, and just sit down to read. You don't even have to make them do it, just let them see you do it consistently.
REWARD IT. Look, there are lots of theories and opinions about external rewards for kids behavior and habits. Here's the reality: as an adult, when I do something hard (giving up sugar, going without coffee, implementing exercise) I reward myself for a job well done. Last summer, I picked three books for my own kids to read; they were books they'd never pick for themselves. When they finished, I took them out for ice cream - one scoop per book - and we talked about the books together. Find some kind of incentive that motivates their effort.
JUST LISTEN. Some people think that listening to a book doesn't count as reading. I am not one of those people. I concede that different skills are used when reading a book, but listening has its benefits. Kids are still engaged in the art of story. They see (or hear, rather) the development of characters and have to track with the twists and turns of a plot. Listening to a book, especially when the narrator is good, also piques a kid's interest for storytelling. Pro tip: Start listening to a series like Harry Potter, Tristen Strong, or the Front Desk series. When your kids get a book or two in, suggest reading the next one together - even aloud. The motivation to stick with a good story may get them to pick up the book.
HAVE STUFF TO READ. This one might seem like a no-brainer, but if you want your kid to read, they've got to have a book. If you don't already, make this the summer you get a library card from your local branch. GAME CHANGER! Free books, magazines, audiobooks, and more at your fingertips. Visiting the library can be overwhelming for kids who don't like to read, so go with some sort of plan, like asking the library for books about sports or celebrities. Because your kid doesn't have to check out a novel, there are lots of options to explore - books of picture and facts about wildlife, a how-to book on a certain skill or project, a joke book or graphic novel, a biography in the form of a picture book (yes, picture books are find for middle grade kids!). And get a bunch of stuff. Take home a huge pile and let your kid explore them on her own.
HYPE IT. Talk about reading in a positive way. Hype it up, like going to the pool or seeing a movie. When your kid chooses to engage in reading, notice it and encouragement it. Instead of saying something like, "It's nice you finally decided to pick up a book," try "That book looks good! Could I maybe borrow it when you're done?" or "What are you reading? Do you like it so far?"
When we step back and think of reading as a life-long skill, the focus shifts from capability to enjoyment. It moves from a "have-to" to a "want-to." That's the goal for kids over the summer: keep them reading something on a consistent basis. Find ways that work for your kiddo and then celebrate the heck out of a newfound hobby.