Dive into a good book - Making reading enjoyable for kids all summer long
It’s the last day of school and your child has walked in the door, thrown their backpack in the corner to be forgotten until late August, and all thoughts of homework have been pushed aside in favor of days full of swimming, playing with friends, and sleeping in.
You’d be hard pressed to find a child that would consider reading to be a fun thing on top of their Summer Bucket List - for most, it’s probably not there at all.
After the crazy year we’ve all experienced, you’re probably thinking, “But, if we don’t keep reading, (insert kid’s name here) is going to fall farther behind!” “They’re going to forget whatever they managed to retain during our virtual learning journey!”
Do you have a child who literally turns their nose up at the thought of reading for fun?
No worries, there are many ways to flip their mindset toward a love of reading, even over the summer - so grab a fruity drink (alcohol or not, no judgement here, it’s been a YEAR and it is summer, after all), kick off your flip flops, and find my tips for making a book lover out of even the hardest to motivate child.
I’ll admit that I’m one of the parents whose child has enjoyed books from the beginning, but don’t let that fool you, she will STILL dig her heels in if what I’m suggesting is not interesting to her, so I’m writing these tips for me, too.
1) Get a real library card - If you’re in your 30s and 40s (like me), you can most definitely remember the day your parents took you to the local library in kindergarten, once you could FINALLY write your name independently, and got you that official square piece of plastic that allowed you to check out ALL THE BOOKS.
This is on my Summer To Do with my daughter now that libraries are opening up again and we’re both super excited - until now, she’s always picked out and checked out books with my scannable card, so I can’t wait to see the look of delight and excitement in her eyes when she writes her name on that hard plastic. She already has plans to find all her favorites - from Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious, to as many unicorn-themed chapter books as will fit in our library check out bag (it’s one of those big utility totes, so I expect we’ll be bringing home a LOT of books).
Have a reluctant reader? Getting their own library card can change that - suddenly, they have access to many different genres, including the increasingly popular graphic novels like the Dog Man and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, which definitely increase the fun factor of burying your head in a book for hours on end.
2) Create a personal reading fort - If you’re anything like me, you love curling up with a good book in your favorite comfy chair or curled up in a blanket. When I was teaching 22 kindergarten students every day, one of their favorite spaces in our classroom was the library area filled with squishy pillows, cozy rugs, and beanbags to flop on. My daughter frequently arranges the blankets from her bed to fashion a cozy space in the corner of her room.
Who says that we have to only read at the kitchen table or sitting up in bed at night? While I’ve certainly done this, it is not my favorite way to lose myself in a fun read.
3) Have a book picnic - Kids of all ages (yes, even pre-teens and young teens) will enjoy getting outdoors to enjoy the sunshine, feel the grass tickling their feet, and the breeze on their arms while they finish “just one more page” of a favorite book. My daughter loves getting one of our worn out blankets to spread on the grass, packing up an easy lunch of a PB&J with some fruit, and getting a few of her favorite books together to read outside.
I should note that while she’s reading, I do, too! That’s one of the EASIEST ways to encourage your readers - let them see how much you enjoy it, too! Whether it’s the top pick from Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book list, the book version of your favorite Netflix show, or the newest edition of Magnolia magazine, when your kids see you engrossed in reading, chances are good they’ll be interested, too.
Just be sure to slather on the sunscreen and grab your sunglasses beforehand, so you’re not turning as red as Clifford or squinting to find out what the Wimpy Kid is up to.
4) Make a game of it - Because really, what kids don’t like games? And prizes? My daughter’s school created a Reading BINGO game during virtual learning and they were able to turn their boards in for the kid-proclaimed amazing goodies like backpack charms, slap bracelets, and scented erasers.
It was a way to encourage them not only to read more, but also switch things up a bit, like reading beneath a favorite tree or in the car on the way to swim lessons, baseball practice, or to get ice cream after dinner.
Reading is an experience that can transport you to amazing places with a simple turn of the page, so as the lazy days of summer begin to creep up on us, grab your favorite book, your kiddos, and soak up the sun - and these ideas, which will assure that everything your child gained during this school year doesn’t melt away like an ice cream cone on a scorching hot day!
Resources for summer reading fun
Written by Melissa Shaver: Melissa is a passionate educator and lifelong learner. In her time as a journalist, she reported on issues in education. Her desire to help students through their struggles led her to leave journalism and pursue a teaching certification in 2007. Melissa has taught grades K-3 and has worked as a reading interventionist. Melissa is full of love and encouragement when working with students and loves celebrating their successes.