How do I encourage my school-age kids to keep reading over the summer? The appeal of other activities and the great outdoors makes it hard to enforce much, if any, time with books. I also don’t want reading to become a chore or something they resent doing.
Raising Regular Readers
The best way to have kids who want to read during the summer is to have kids who want to read year-round. If reading at home is only something you talk about during vacations, there’s a good chance your kids will associate it with taking time away from other summer activities. But if reading at home is an all-the-time family activity, summer reading will be the rule rather than the exception.
Of course, it’s already June and too late to change school-year habits, but all is not lost! Public libraries are your best ally here since they are likely to have summer reading programs and incentives, plus they are a friendly, safe, air-conditioned place to visit all summer long. Let your kids browse without judgment about reading level, appropriateness, or overall learning value. Does your 5th grader want to read a picture book? Great! Does your 3rd grader want to read “Dog Man” for the 100th time? Sure! Bring home a stack, and even if they don’t all get read, they’re a reminder of the possibilities, and you can go back to the library for another stack anytime.
If you’re traveling, make it a point to visit public libraries or bookstores at your destinations, and to seek out books by local authors or about the places you’re visiting. Remember, too, that reading can take lots of forms: websites about travel or current events, brochures and pamphlets at tourist attractions, placards in museums, even maps and street signs.
The best way to raise readers is to read, so be sure you are modeling reading in your free time this summer. (If you’re taking in this advice but don’t have kids, it’s still a good idea to carve out some time for yourself to read this summer!) You can also read aloud on car trips and at bedtime, encourage kids to read to younger friends or relatives, or find (or start!) a book club to make reading more social. Taking books outdoors to the beach or a treehouse or just a shady park bench can help make reading part of the summer rather than taking away from it.
If your summer is too busy for any of this to work on a daily basis, institute something weekly like Shabbat afternoon family reading time, or “Wednesday morning with magazines,” or “poetry at dinner Mondays.” Even if there’s a school reading list for the summer, deemphasize the idea of reading being required and instead emphasize that reading is a great, fulfilling, fun activity no matter where you are and regardless of the season.