Author: Teresa Fitzgibbons
It’s time for that final bell to ring and signal the end of another school year. Sadly, for many students that final bell also signals the end of reading for a couple of months. Sunshine, the beach, and the promise of outdoor fun lure children away from books. But research has proven what teachers already know: Summer reading is vital to maintaining the literacy skills developed during the school year.
In fact, children who don’t read during the summer may actually lose ground. Research has demonstrated that on average, a student loses one month of reading achievement during summer vacation. In other words, a child who ends fifth grade at a reading level of 5.8—meaning they read at a level consistent with fifth grade in the eighth month—returns to school with a reading level of 5.7. Other studies have shown that children who struggle with reading or who are already reading below grade level often lose two months or more of reading achievement. By middle school, these children can be up to two years behind their peers.
This doesn’t have to happen. Reading as little as twenty minutes a day can significantly offset summer reading loss. After all, reading is a skill—it improves with practice. A student who reads each day will improve both his or her reading rate and level of comprehension the same way an athlete who practices each day improves his or her performance.
Convincing a children to pick up a book when they’d rather play at the pool is not an easy task; however, there are a few relatively simple steps parents can take to create an atmosphere that encourages summer reading and makes it fun.
Be a role model
Parents who read and enjoy reading are more likely to have children who do the same. Read in front of your children and show them you’re excited about books or magazines. If your children are younger, tell them about books you enjoyed as a child—many are still in print or can be purchased online. Perhaps you could read one of your old favorites together.
Read aloud to your children, and if they’re able, ask them to read to you (only correct a mispronunciation if it changes meaning). Ask your child to read aloud to siblings, family members, and even stuffed animals! Children with slower reading rates can improve their own reading rate and fluency from simply following along. When you’re reading out loud, use your voice to bring characters and stories to life and encourage your child to do the same.
Make reading routine
Set aside a specific time and make sticking to it a priority. Make it a practice to pack books when you leave the house, and try reading when you’re waiting in line or stuck in traffic.
While you don’t want to do this with every book you read this summer, making up a fun activity to go along with a book creates an additional purpose for reading and can bring books to life. You may want to have your child make posters or draw pictures to go along with the story or you can act out scenes. Older children may want to make maps or board games based on the book. Children can also keep journals or write sequels. If you’re stuck for ideas, ask teachers or look online.
Also, remember that reading and writing go hand in hand. Encouraging your children to keep journals, write letters, stories, or poems helps both their language and reading skills.
Make sure your children have plenty of reading material available. Let them choose their own books, and don’t say no because something seems too easy or too hard. Take trips to the library and bookstores or get them a subscription to a magazine. Joining a summer reading program is also an excellent idea.
What do kids like to read? There are as many different answers to that question as there are books from which to choose—and that’s a lot. The best way to choose a book for your child is to simply ask them or look for something related to their hobbies and interests. But if the answer is “I don’t know,” here are a few general guidelines that may help you select books for school-age kids.
Children of all ages tend to like to read stories about children who are slightly older than they are. In the primary and early intermediate grades, children like characters that solve problems and books with happy endings. They are attracted to books with strong imagery and main characters that are friendly. Stories with too much dialogue or slow beginnings may bore them, and long descriptions and passages may frustrate some readers. Popular topics among younger readers are pets, animals, adventure, new places, and school life. Boys like stories about boys, and girls often prefer books with girls as main characters.
By later elementary school, children’s preferences often fall along gender lines. Boys enjoy reading about war, space travel, adventure, fantasy, the outdoors, mysteries, and humorous subjects. Plot and action are important to them. Girls, on the other hand, like stories that rely on character development. While many enjoy mystery and adventure, girls also like reading stories about friendship.
In middle school, boys still tend to prefer the same types of stories as they did in elementary school, but at a more challenging level. Girls start looking for books about personal identity, love, and friendship. They also like stories about girls who have problems and ultimately solve them. By high school, both prefer books that tackle moral issues and deal with relevant themes.
When in doubt, ask the experts. Teachers, other children, and book sellers often know what’s popular. While there’s no doubt the final Harry Potter will be this summer’s hottest seller, Diane Wiggins, Children’s Manager at Barnes and Noble, suggests the following summer reads for kids:
Picture Books for Ages 5 and Under:
On the Beach by Alistair Smith
Carolina’s Story: Sea Turtles Get Sick Too! by Donna Rathmell
Good Sports: Rhymes about Running, Jumping, Throwing, and More by Jack Prelutsky
Follow the Moon by Sarah Weeks
If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty
Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
Early Chapter Book for Ages 6-8
Mercy Watson Fights Crime by Kate Di Camillo
Ruby the Red Fairy (Rainbow Magic Series) by Daisy Meadows
The Trouble with Tink by Kiki Thorpe
Dragon of the Red Dawn (Magic Treehouse Series) by Mary Pope Osbourne
Intermediate Reading Ages 8-12
Nicki by Ann Howard Creel
I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
Twelve by Laura Myracle
Urchin and the Heartstone (The Mismantle Chronicle Series) by M. McAllister
Gregor and the Marks of Secret (Underland Chronicles) by Suzanne Collins
The Fire Within by Chris D’Lacey
Ida B…and her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan
Inkheart by Cornelia Funk
Heat by Mike Lupica
Teen Reading Ages 13+
Ark Angel (Alex Rider Series) by Anthony Horowitz
Here, There Be Dragons by James Owen
Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashears
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton
I8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle
Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal by Mai Peet
Local Summer Reading Programs
Summer Reading in the Magic Treehouse
Barnes and Noble’s summer reading program is now in its eleventh year. This year’s theme draws on the popular series of Magic Treehouse books, by Mary Pope Osbourne, in which Jack and Annie enjoy all sorts of time travel and adventure tales.
Participants can choose whatever titles they wish and proceed at their own pace. When they have finished a book, their parents must sign their reading logs. Once a child has read eight books, he or she earns a free book from a list of exceptional paperback titles.
The program is open to students in grades 1-6 and will run from May 29-September 2. Interested families should register at Barnes and Noble at Festival Center, 20 Hatton Place. 843-342-6690.
Get A Clue!!
The Beaufort County Public Library is presenting a mystery-themed summer reading program this year. Get A Clue is open to all Beaufort County students ages 4-18. Participants must sign a contract stating how many books they plan to read this summer and keep a reading log. As they proceed with their reading, they can present their log at local libraries in exchange for prizes. Those who meet their contract goal are eligible for a grand prize drawing. The library will also host mystery-related activities throughout the summer in conjunction with the program.
Registration begins May 20 and lasts two weeks. The actual program runs from June 4-July 14. Students can register at any local library branch. The Hilton Head branch is located at 11 Beach City Road. The Bluffton branch is located at 120 Palmetto Way.
Summer Reading for Teens
While reading is its own reward, many teenagers tend to need a little external motivation to delve into books during summer break. Summer jobs, sports practices, and social concerns tend to dominate teens’ time. Middle and high schools typically require summer reading or at least provide recommended reading lists, but getting teenagers to actually read is not always easy.
A minimum of twenty minutes of reading per day for high school students is reasonable considering the other demands on their time. Hopefully, your child will learn to love it and choose to read more. Let your teen choose the time he or she wants to read each day and provide a quiet place. The twenty minutes needs to be straight reading time with no breaks for the bathroom or telephone. Don’t interrupt your teen while reading, and don’t allow siblings or other distractions to interrupt. IPods, cell phones, the computer, and television should be off-limits during reading time.
Unless your teen’s school or teachers require written work to accompany summer reading, don’t ask the student to complete other tasks associated with reading. Share what you like to read with your teens and ask them for recommendations. When you talk to teens about books, talk to them the same way you would another adult about books.
If your teen needs a bit of external motivation to read, help set a realistic summer reading goal and plan some type of appropriate reward for reaching it. Your teen may want to read a certain amount of minutes or hours by summer’s end or read a specific number of books. Giving students rewards in increments often keeps them motivated.