How to Keep Your Kids Reading This Summer
It’s been quite the summer already, right?! If your family is like ours, we have found so much joy recently in getting back to ‘normal’ things: enrolling our kids in all.the.sports again, and taking our first family vacation in quite a while. After a year like we’ve had, we’ve all been itching for this opportunity. However, with that comes…well, a little chaos. Summer days are filled with fun, but that can mean a disrupted schedule, later bedtimes, less quiet moments, and less time to crack open a book.
As a former Reading Specialist, I know the immense benefits for our kids to read during the summer, and reading has always been a top priority in our house. But, this summer I’ve had to get a bit creative in squeezing reading time into our busy schedule. I’ve learned that making it fun and flexible has been a way to get my kids reading, even among the chaos.
I consider reading aloud to our kids to be a ‘parent superpower.’ I am a momma of 4 kids (ages 9 years to 2 years), and the moments I read aloud a book to them ALWAYS calms the crazy. Being flexible in time and space is so important during the summer; I have accepted that bedtime reading may not happen and to pivot when we can. This might mean reading happens when my little guy is taking a nap, first thing in the morning, or maybe later afternoon when emotions are high from a long, fun day. I know that once I open that book, the kids glue themselves to my sides, lean in, and just take a deep breath. I need this reset just as much as they do. If you have kids ages 4+, I would highly recommend reading aloud a chapter book to them. Their auditory comprehension is much higher than you’d think and creating this shared experience can lead to such great discussions about empathy, celebrating differences, and tackling tough topics.
Of course, we want our kids to continue to foster a love of reading on their own as well over
the summer months, but I know this can be hard with the myriad of distractions pulling them in every direction…except toward a book. I love to incentivize my kids to read on their own, and they can earn ‘Mom Store’ tickets for every 30 minutes they read independently. You could give them tickets based on pages, chapters or time read – it’s so flexible! They can purchase special treats or even ‘experiences with mom and dad’ from the ‘Mom Store’ if they save up their tickets! (Pro Tip: Write their name on the back of the ticket once they earn it to eliminate fighting and/or discussions about tickets that ‘mysteriously’ appear.) 😉
While I LOVE fun, positive reinforcement for reading, I understand that new, reluctant, or
struggling readers may still resist picking up a book. First, I always try to find books for my kids that are at their reading level or slightly above. I don’t want them to be frustrated, especially for low-risk summer reading. I have an idea of their reading levels, so I search popular books at those levels or similar books to what they’ve enjoyed in the past. My goal is to build their confidence to eventually take on the harder books. I also LOVE graphic novels for my kids who just need a little extra help comprehending the story with the help of some illustrations. For my 5-year-old who can’t quite read on his own, he has books that read aloud to him via a QR code. And because kids are very determined to become their own unique person, I know that sometimes picking a seemingly perfect book STILL doesn’t get the ball rolling. In this case, I pull one last trick out of my bag before I let them abandon the book – I read a chapter or two with them. It’s amazing to see a reluctant reader have a change of heart when they get just a taste of the story. Oftentimes, when I read a chapter or two, my kids will then grab the book from me and continue reading on their own.
Finally, listening to audio books as a family is just one last way our family sneaks in summer reading. Playing an audio book is one of my favorite things to do while the kids are eating lunch or while we’re in the car – both for short trips around town or long road trips. Audio books always bring the volume level down as they are instantly sucked into the story. We have had so many great conversations about the audio books we’ve read just because these locations allow us the time and space to connect.
For us, summer reading is flexible, scrappy, and far from perfect – we just try to sneak it in
when we can and try to have fun with it. Enjoying these reading moments with my kids are
some of my fondest summer memories, and I hope you’re encouraged to finish the summer
strong – with a book in your hand and your kids by your side.
Carolyn Buckingham is a local mom of four and former high school English teacher and Reading Specialist. She is currently an Usborne Books & More Consultant. You can connect with her on IG (@randomactsofreading1) or on Facebook (Random Acts of Reading).