Summer holidays are here and children are enjoying a break from their busy school routines. They need that break and should be encouraged to enjoy the “lazy days of summer,” but it’s also important to be sure that hard-earned school skills are not lost. Some children enjoy reading and won’t need any nudges from others to get their noses in a book. But if your children have experienced some problems with reading, lack confidence or see reading as hard work, you may need to provide some incentives to keep them reading over the school break.
You’re in luck because your local library will do the work for you! Nearly every library has an active children’s section with trained librarians. Their role is to provide quality reading experiences for children, help them to understand the many book choices available to them and to help them check books in and out. Children are usually allowed to sign up for their own library cards and that makes them feel grown up and responsible. Some libraries go the extra mile and have reading themes for summer readers complete with regular gatherings for read-alouds, challenges for reading at home, small prizes for goals achieved, and a party at the end of the summer.
If your library isn’t quite this sophisticated, you can have your own family or neighbourhood summer reading challenge. Determine a reasonable goal for books or pages read over the course of the summer. Then think of a way to chart progress and offer small incentives along the way. Perhaps there can be weekly goals as well as a big summer goal with a larger reward at the end of the summer. Prizes need not be expensive. Small treats and toys will suffice. Maybe a family trip to a certain park or a day at the beach is a good stimulus for your reader. You know the things your child wants and enjoys, so get the whole family in on the fun. It is very helpful when parents and grandparents model good reading habits too.
A neighbourhood book club may offer even more fun for summer readers. Get the neighbourhood kids together, set a meeting time and make reading the focus of the group. The children can choose their own group name, decide on a chapter book to read together at meetings, set personal goals and decide on rewards that fit your (or their) budget. You might do an author study and read books written by that person. You might include simple book reports or book shares where each child gets a turn to share a favourite book and tell why he or she liked it. Some snacks or treats will round out your meetings. The idea is to make reading a regular and enjoyable part of summer days. A hesitant reader will look around at all the fun and want to be a part of it.
So use your imagination and let the fun begin. Don’t fall into the trap of allowing all those good reading skills learned during the school year to get rusty. Your children will pick up on the enthusiasm you show for a part of their summer being all about books.