Writers generally love to read, but that doesn’t mean our kids always do, and with the advent of summer, some tweens are cheering the chance to toss books aside and get down to some serious video gaming or hanging with friends by the pool. No books for three months! Whoohooo!
Oh no. Not so fast. You can’t nurture a love of reading (which often comes with better reading proficiency) by ditching it 25% of the year.
So how can we get our reluctant readers involved with books during the summer?
Here are a handful of ideas.
Volunteer at the Library
Many local libraries have summer reading programs that are run, at least in part, by youth volunteers. My kids will be spending every Tuesday afternoon helping kids sign up for the reading contests and select prizes for reaching reading goals. As enthusiastic readers come in and gush about their new favorite book, it can help a reluctant reader see that peers value reading. And, well, you know… If peers like it…
Even if something like that isn’t available, youth can often volunteer to help re-shelf books with adult supervision. There is something about handling the books, seeing the shiny covers and all the different genres and subjects, that piques interest in even anti-reading kids.
Watch the Movie
No, not instead of the book. With the book. This requires the parent or guardian to be quite familiar with both, but it’s worth it. We did this most recently with To Kill a Mockingbird, reading a chapter and then watching the corresponding scene in the movie. Since books and their movies are never quite the same, we talk about the differences and which one they enjoy better. It doesn’t take long to find out that books usually include a lot more details. The benefit of the movie, though, is that it helps a reader visualize the characters and locations. This in turn keeps the energy going when they dive back into the pages.
Bring Back Bedtime Stories
Yes. With tweens. I’m not kidding. If you are good at reading aloud with expression, this can be a truly awesome bonding (or re-bonding) experience with even tweens. That bedtime slot is great because it’s time to wind down; there aren’t friends distracting, and it gets them settled before midnight so that you can sleep, too. (They might have the summer off, but you don’t necessarily have that luxury.) This is a great time to pull out the more fluffy, popular books that don’t feel like literature class–things that are fast-paced and either full of humor or action. Learn to stop right at a good spot, and if they fuss for you to read more, you can say, “Not now, but you can always read more and tell me about it in the morning.” (wink wink)
Make a Movie
Tweens love taking pictures and stupid videos of themselves, so challenge them to make a movie out of a chapter from a book. They can do it with their friends–both the filming and the editing–so that makes it feel like fun. There are plenty of free, simple movie-editing programs that don’t require advanced degrees to figure out, and they’ll probably learn some new skills in the process. This isn’t, after all, a graded school project. It’s going to be the main feature for a “home movie” night with popcorn and pizza.
Got two readers who’d rather not? Here’s a way they can get two books read for the mental price of one. Sort of. Start with two books of similar length (especially chapter length), and have each child (or parent and child) choose one and read the first chapter. Then they come back together and report on what happened in the story, hopefully with some details and enthusiasm so that the other kid wants to know more. Now they swap books and read the next chapter (or designated time length) and repeat the process. This can be fun for a few reasons: (1) one chapter isn’t soooo daunting; (2) they feel like they’re leapfrogging through the book faster, and thus feel more accomplished; (3) summarizing the story for someone else helps it stick in their own minds more, thus boosting their memories of the events and making them feel more real; and (4) they don’t have to read for long–maybe only 15 minutes a day–to get through more books, which also boosts confidence. This is a good activity for social kids because that positive feedback loop will cement that “reading is fun” idea into their subconscious.
Summer can be the opportunity to kindle (or rekindle) a child’s love of reading because it isn’t school-related. Since reading is a life skill that helps with countless others, it’s one of the best things you can do to ensure their success when school starts back up in the fall.
Now where’s that library card?
Recent release for young readers: Ancients of Drandsil and the Circle of Law (new edition of formerly called The Circle of Law).