Every parent knows that a summer break isn’t just about the beach and ice cream. It’s also the time when children’s reading skills can ‘slide.’ This phenomenon, known as the ‘summer slide,’ refers to the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to lose some of the academic gains they’ve made over the preceding school year. As children swap classrooms for playgrounds, reading habits often get swapped out too. And while it’s important for kids to relax and recharge, neglecting those reading muscles for too long can lead to a serious setback in their academic progress.
This is where our mission for the summer comes in: to keep kids reading and reverse the infamous ‘summer slide.’ More than just preventing the loss of school-year learning, keeping kids engaged in reading over the summer can build their confidence, enhance their love of reading, and prepare them for the school year ahead.
But how do you transform a child’s perception of reading from a ‘school activity’ to an enjoyable pastime? In this article, we’ll explore the top 8 strategies to keep kids reading this summer, discuss the manifold benefits of reading, and provide some book suggestions that might just make reading the best part of your child’s summer. Let’s dive in!
The Benefits of Reading
Before we get into the strategies, let’s see why reading is one of the best activities.
Reading is not just about turning pages and reciting words. It’s a powerful tool that has numerous advantages beyond language skills. These benefits extend to all children, from pre-schoolers to GCSE and A-level students. Let’s delve into why reading is such an essential activity:
1. Improves Vocabulary and Language Skills
Regular reading helps children expand their vocabulary and understand complex sentence structures. For GCSE and A-level students, a broad vocabulary can make a significant difference in their essays and exams.
2. Enhances Concentration and Focus
Reading a book requires a degree of concentration and focus. Over time, these honed skills can assist in better concentration during lessons and while studying.
3. Boosts Imagination and Creativity
Through reading, kids travel to different worlds, meet diverse characters, and experience various situations, all of which fuel their imagination and foster creativity.
4. Develops Empathy
Reading allows children to step into the shoes of different characters, understand their feelings, and view situations from diverse perspectives. This can help them develop empathy and understanding.
5. Aids Cognitive and Emotional Development
Reading can help enhance kids’ cognitive development by promoting critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Additionally, it can support emotional development by helping children understand and express their feelings better.
6. Prepares for Higher-Level Studies
For students preparing for GCSEs, A-levels, or university studies, regular reading can help familiarise them with different writing styles, improve comprehension, and develop the ability to form arguments and viewpoints based on what they read.
7. Promotes Lifelong Learning
Cultivating a reading habit from a young age encourages a lifelong love for learning. This passion can extend into adulthood, influencing academic, professional, and personal growth.
8. Relaxation and Stress Relief
Reading can also be a source of relaxation and a tool for stress relief. It can provide a necessary break from studies for older students, offering a peaceful retreat from the pressures of rigorous academic demands.
Now, let’s get into the strategies:
Strategy 1: Provide Easy Access to Books
One of the key strategies for keeping children engaged in reading over the summer is ensuring they have easy access to books. This might sound basic, but it’s often overlooked in our digital age where screens have largely taken over.
1. Build a Home Library
Start by creating a dedicated reading space at home stocked with a variety of books that cater to your child’s interests and reading level. This can be a small bookshelf in the corner of their room or a cozy reading nook in a quiet part of your home. The aim is to make books a visible part of their everyday environment.
2. Regular Visits to the Local Library
Libraries are a treasure trove of knowledge and creativity. Take your child on regular trips to your local library and let them explore the endless shelves of books. Many libraries also offer summer reading programs that reward children for the books they read, turning reading into a fun, rewarding activity.
3. Use Digital Platforms
While physical books have their charm, digital platforms offer another avenue to access books. E-books, online libraries, and audiobooks can offer a vast collection of titles at your child’s fingertips. These platforms can be particularly helpful for older students studying for their GCSEs or A-levels, who might need access to a broader range of subject-specific books.
Remember, the goal is to make books readily available, so your child sees reading as a natural part of their day, rather than a chore. With a multitude of books at their disposal, children can discover the joy of diving into a new story whenever they want, keeping their reading skills sharp throughout the summer.
Strategy 2: Choosing the Right Books
Selecting the right books is just as critical as providing access to them. Picking books that are too hard can be frustrating, and ones that are too easy can lead to boredom. The key is to find books that strike a balance, fitting their reading level while sparking their interest.
1. Use the Five Finger Rule
The Five Finger Rule is a simple and effective method to determine if a book is at the right level for your child. Have your child read the first page and raise a finger for each word they don’t know. If they end up with more than five fingers raised, the book may be too challenging for independent reading. 2-3 fingers is perfect and one finger or none is too easy.
2. Cater to Their Interests
The best way to engage a child in reading is to find books on topics they love. Whether it’s dinosaurs, space, sports, or magical tales, books on subjects they’re passionate about will be more captivating. For older students, look for books that align with their academic interests or future career aspirations. Biographies of people they admire or books on subjects they are studying for their GCSEs or A-levels can be intriguing and beneficial.
3. Explore Different Formats
Don’t limit reading to traditional books. Encourage your child to explore other formats like magazines, comics, and graphic novels. These mediums can offer visually rich storytelling experiences that can entice reluctant readers or provide a refreshing change for avid readers.
Choosing the right books can turn reading from a task into a thrilling adventure. The right book can unlock a world of imagination, keep your child entertained for hours, and most importantly, keep them reading over the summer.
Strategy 3: Embrace Different Reading Materials
Variety is the spice of life, and the same principle applies to reading. Offering an array of reading materials can help make reading a regular and exciting part of your child’s daily routine.
1. Magazines and Comics
Kids love receiving mail! A subscription to a children’s magazine like National Geographic Kids can be a thrilling experience. These magazines offer a variety of content every month, keeping the reading material fresh and engaging. Comics and graphic novels also provide a visually engaging reading experience that can entice even the most reluctant readers.
Audiobooks can be an excellent choice for busy days, long car rides, or even as a replacement for TV time. Listening to a well-narrated book can make the story come alive in a whole new way. It can also help children hear the correct pronunciation of words and improve their listening skills.
3. Reading Aloud
Reading aloud can be a fun social activity and an opportunity for skill-building. Parents can read more challenging books aloud to build vocabulary and listening skills. Kids can also practice reading aloud to younger siblings or even pets!
4. Non-Traditional Books
Consider books that break away from the traditional narrative format. Informational books, how-to guides, cookbooks, or books about hobbies can also be interesting reading materials. For older students preparing for GCSEs or A-levels, textbooks, scholarly articles, or books related to their course of study can be beneficial.
Embracing various reading materials keeps reading engaging and exciting. It allows your child to discover what they enjoy, boosting their confidence and fostering a love for reading that goes beyond just books.
Strategy 4: Balancing the Difficulty Level of Books
When it comes to reading, striking the right balance between challenge and enjoyment is critical. Here’s how you can ensure your child is reading books that are appropriate for their skill level, yet engaging enough to keep them interested.
1. Encourage a Mix of ‘Independent’ and ‘Instructional’ Level Books
Teachers and tutors can help identify books that your child can comfortably read by themselves (‘independent’ level) and books that are slightly more challenging (‘instructional’ level). A mix of these books can help your child feel a sense of achievement while gradually enhancing their reading skills.
2. Don’t Shy Away from Difficult Books
Reading aloud can be an effective way to introduce more difficult books. This not only improves vocabulary but also aids comprehension of complex narratives. For older children preparing for GCSEs and A-levels, tackling more difficult texts can be an effective way to enhance their critical reading skills.
By ensuring that the reading material is at the right level, you can keep the challenge of reading exciting and manageable, helping to maintain your child’s enthusiasm for reading.
Strategy 5: Engage in Conversations About Books
One effective way to make reading more engaging for your child is to have regular conversations about the books they’re reading. Here’s how you can do this effectively:
1. Show Genuine Interest
The first step is to show genuine interest in what your child is reading. Ask them about the characters, plot, or any interesting facts they’ve learned from their book. This can help make reading a more exciting and social experience for them.
2. Improve Comprehension
Having discussions about books can help your child better understand what they’re reading. This is especially beneficial when they’re reading more complex materials. Discussing what they’ve read can also help them recall information more easily, which is helpful for older students who are studying for exams.
3. Encourage Critical Thinking
Discussing books with your child isn’t just about checking if they understood the text. It’s also an excellent opportunity to encourage critical thinking. Ask open-ended questions that require your child to interpret or analyze the book’s content.
4. Read the Same Book
One effective way to engage in meaningful discussions about books is to read the same book as your child. This not only shows that you’re interested in what they’re reading, but it also gives you common ground for deep, engaging discussions.
Remember, the goal is to make reading a fun and interactive experience. By discussing books with your child, you’re not just improving their reading skills; you’re also strengthening your bond with them.
Strategy 6: Participate in Library Programs
Libraries are more than just places to borrow books; they’re vibrant community centers that offer a variety of programs designed to make reading more engaging for children. Here’s how you can make the most out of your local library’s offerings:
1. Join Summer Reading Programs
Many libraries run summer reading programs designed to keep children reading during the school holidays. These programs often offer incentives such as prizes or parties, making reading an even more enjoyable activity for your child.
2. Attend Story Time Sessions
For younger children, many libraries offer story time sessions where librarians or volunteers read out loud to kids. This is a great opportunity for your child to enjoy stories, build listening skills, and socialize with other children.
3. Take Advantage of Reading Recommendations
Librarians are excellent resources for book recommendations. They can suggest books tailored to your child’s interests, reading level, and even their mood. Don’t hesitate to ask for their advice!
4. Explore Other Library Resources
Libraries offer more than just books. Many have audio books, magazines, comics, and other reading materials that can cater to your child’s varying interests. By taking full advantage of what your local library has to offer, you can keep your child engaged and interested in reading all year round.
Strategy 7: Consider Tutoring or Skills Reinforcement
Sometimes, children may need a bit more support to maintain or improve their reading skills. Tutoring or skills reinforcement could be the solution. Here’s how you can approach it:
1. Consult with Their Teacher
If you’re concerned about your child’s reading skills, it might be worthwhile to consult their teacher or reading specialist. They could recommend specific skill-building activities or suggest tutoring.
2. Consider Summer Tutoring
Summer is an ideal time to reinforce reading skills, especially for children who may struggle with reading during the school year. Short, regular tutoring sessions can be more effective and less overwhelming than longer, infrequent sessions.
3. Use Workbooks or Flashcards
If your child is tackling a challenging book, consider making flashcards of tricky vocabulary words or using workbooks that focus on reading comprehension. These tools can provide valuable practice and help increase your child’s understanding.
4. Discuss Difficult Books Before Reading
Before your child starts a difficult book, it can be helpful to discuss it first. This pre-reading conversation can prime your child’s understanding and make it easier for them to follow along with the story.
Remember, the goal is not to push your child too hard but to provide them with the support they need to enjoy reading and grow their skills at their own pace.
Strategy 8: Maintain a Positive and Encouraging Atmosphere
The final, but by no means least important, strategy is to maintain a positive and encouraging atmosphere around reading. Here’s how you can accomplish this:
1. Show Enthusiasm
Show enthusiasm for the books your child chooses to read. By showing interest, you are validating their choices and encouraging them to continue reading.
2. Be Patient and Supportive
Reading can be challenging, especially when a child is tackling a new or difficult book. Be patient and supportive, celebrating their progress rather than focusing on any mistakes or struggles.
3. Make Reading Fun
Try to incorporate reading into enjoyable activities. This might mean reading together as a family, having your child read to a pet, or even hosting a small book club with their friends.
4. Focus on Progress Over Perfection
Keep the emphasis on improvement and enjoyment over perfection. Every child progresses at their own pace, and that’s perfectly okay. Encourage your child to take pride in their progress, no matter how small it might seem.
Creating a positive environment for reading can help your child to associate reading with pleasure and relaxation, which can foster a lifelong love of books.
Books That Boost Reading Skills
Selecting books that can boost your child’s reading skills is an integral part of encouraging a love for reading. Here are some recommendations based on age groups:
For Early Readers (4-7 years)
- “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss: This classic, engaging book uses a limited vocabulary which is great for building confidence in young readers.
- “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle: This picture book introduces children to good nutrition and days of the week with easy-to-understand language.
For Young Readers (7-9 years)
- “The Magic Tree House Series” by Mary Pope Osborne: This series exposes children to history and science while increasing their vocabulary and reading fluency.
- “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White: This heartwarming story introduces children to more complex themes while still being accessible in language.
For Middle-Grade Readers (9-12 years)
- “Harry Potter series” by J.K. Rowling: This beloved series provides a challenging yet engaging read that can significantly enhance vocabulary and comprehension.
- “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio: The book delves into deeper, empathetic themes, boosting both emotional intelligence and reading skills.
For Young Adults (12+ years)
- “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee: This classic novel can help young adults improve their understanding of complex themes and historical contexts.
- “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak: Set during World War II, this novel introduces young adults to intricate storylines and complex themes.
Choosing books that match your child’s reading ability and interests can make reading a much more enjoyable activity. Consider asking librarians, teachers, or reading experts for additional suggestions based on your child’s reading level and preferences.
As we usher in an era where digital screens are becoming more prevalent, it’s crucial to remember the immense value that reading a book can bring to our lives, especially for our children. Books open up windows to new worlds, introduce different perspectives, and help us cultivate empathy and understanding towards various walks of life. Furthermore, reading can significantly strengthen cognitive abilities, emotional intelligence, and foster lifelong learning habits that equip children with the skills necessary to navigate through life successfully.
Every child’s journey towards becoming an avid reader is unique. It may take time and patience, but by implementing these strategies, we can create an enriching environment that nourishes this crucial habit. However, remember that reading is not a race, but a journey. Celebrate small victories, and if progress seems slow, don’t be disheartened. The love for reading grows over time, and with continuous encouragement, your child will eventually discover the joy books can bring.
If your child is still struggling with reading or other academic areas, remember that there’s no shame in seeking external help. A platform like Edumentors, staffed by talented students from top UK universities, offers personalised tutoring that can significantly boost your child’s reading skills, overall academic performance, and self-confidence. These mentors, having successfully navigated their academic journeys, can provide your child with the tools and strategies they need to achieve their academic goals. Remember, every successful person was once a learner, too.