Summer. As parents, we both love it and hate it. Most of us love spending that extra time with kids, sleeping in, and living schedule-free. We hate it because we’re in charge of feeding them three meals a day, entertaining them all day, and picking up after them constantly. Come August, most of us are excited about them heading back to the classroom. Kids can struggle at the first of the year, though, forgetting what they have learned, and even testing on lower levels than when the school year ended. It’s called the “summer slide.” The child’s brain “forgets” even if temporarily, what it has learned. It eventually catches up, but it could be too late, and end with your child not getting as good of grades or test scores as you or they would like. It’s a “use it or lose it” type of thing. Once the brain learns new information, it must practice it often to retain it. Reading is one of the most important skills for children to retain during the summer, since it is the basis for virtually everything they will do in school. Here are some tips to keep your kids’ reading this summer, so they can go back this fall with a strong, healthy brain.
- Join a club
Barnes & Noble and many local public libraries offer summer reading clubs. Your kids set a goal, and they are rewarded with small prizes, coupons or books when they reach their goals. Do your research online, and sign them up with one that has reasonable goals, or allows them to set their own.
- Set a Time
Set a specific time every day that is “reading time”. During this time, everyone finds a cozy spot, and reads, even Mom or Dad. Set a timer for 20-30 minutes, and make reading the only thing that is allowed during this time. No phones, tablets, computer, or TV. Find a time that works, and stick to it. If you have a baby or toddler who naps, naptime is the perfect time for quiet reading for everyone else.
- Read Together
Kids of every age can benefit from reading with an adult. Reading aloud and listening improves comprehension. For younger kids, stick to fun picture books that will hold their interest. Let them look at the words, and read the ones they recognize (like sight words). For school-age kids, find a chapter book that everyone is interested in, and take turns reading pages or chapters. My kids and I (9 & 12) enjoyed reading the Michael Vey series by Richard Paul Evans.
- Reward Reading
If your kids tend to complain when it’s reading time, offer them incentives if they read every day without complaint. It could be ice cream, a day at the pool, a new book, or anything that you see fit.
- Make it Fun
Visit the library weekly to let everyone choose books. Teach kids how to check them out themselves, and if they’re old enough, let them get their own library card. Also check into the activities your local library offers. Many offer free summer activities that are centered around books to keep kids interested in reading all year long.
- Set a Good Example
If your kids see you read, they will learn how important it is. Even if you don’t like to read, try to find something you’re interested in so that they can see you reading. Read at the same time as them, and keep a book in the car or your purse. Let them see you reading while waiting, instead of checking email or playing games on your phone.
- Let them Stay Up Later
Let your kids have an extra half an hour of lights-on time at bedtime, with the exception that they must be reading. Take away electronics and phones so they don’t get distracted. They’ll feel like they’re getting away with something, and you’ll feel good that they are getting in some extra reading time. It’s a win-win!
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