As my son and I were walking over the sand dunes on our end-of-summer beach getaway, I told him I was thinking of writing an article about how to keep kids reading for fun during the school year.
He immediately offered a lot of advice:
1. "Tell the parents to only get books that the kids like. Use the books they thought were really good, and get more like them."
I agree and would add that an easy way to do this is with a series or two that your child likes and is eager to dive into even on those busy school-year nights.
2. "You want them to try new things, but maybe new books that have, like, the same ideas or type of story."
Use your child's interests to try new authors, but don't force him to jump too far from his comfort zone while he is adjusting to school responsibilities. Keep some of those books for breaks in the school year.
3. "Read together, and let them stay up late sometimes."
I can't stress this one enough, at least the first part. Bedtime reading is sacred at our house, and not only is it time with books, it's one-on-one time with a parent. It builds strong bonds and literacy skills. Staying up late doesn't happen often, but when it does it's so we can read just one more chapter. Bending your rules in the name of literacy is something each family can decide if it fits for them. We don't do it often, but when we do there is a whole bunch of excitement over what gets read.
4. "What about going to the library every week?" ←- This was my suggestion.
"That's a great idea Mom, and then you won't get so many fines either!"
Going to the library often keeps fresh material in your child's hands and naturally promotes reading. There are so many choices, knowledgeable staff, and an environment that makes reading cool. Also, as my son pointed out, going often might help people like me get their books back on time to avoid fines.
5. "I know...what about a book wish list?" He considered this suggestion and then added, "But not a super long one because they might have too much homework."
Said like a true first grader who has just made the leap from optional homework in kindergarten to required homework in first grade. The sentiment is a solid one. We want to set our kids up to succeed but still give them challenges. If your children are anything like mine, school is awesome but exhausting, and giving them a mental break is important. Making a wish list too big could backfire and make kids feel like reading is daunting. Keep it short enough for them to realistically read all the books and add to it if need be.
Kids are wise and sometimes just asking them for advice can really pay off. Here are my other five suggestions for making the transition to reading-for-fun during the school year.
6. Offer a variety of shorter reads like comics, magazines, and short stories. The school year can be taxing, and shorter options for pleasure reading can seem much more attainable when free time is in short supply.
7. Book Fairs and Book Orders. This isn't just a plug for Scholastic; it's just a fact that these do a bang-up job at getting kids excited about books. You don't need to bust your budget, either. Both have very affordable choices, and one single book can do wonders as an incentive to read.
8. Run mini-challenges like Scholastic's Summer Challenge during break times with books as prizes. You just need a goal. Instead of the 12 days of Christmas you can do the 12 books of Christmas! Spring break can be training camp for summer reading.
9. Shuttle them around with books! While running your kids to and from activities, skip the tech gadgets and fill the backseat with magazines and books they can pick up and read on the go.
10. Make screen time reading time. During the school year at our house, screen time is limited. But one way I promote reading is to allow my son extra screen time if he is reading e-books. 30 minutes turns into 45 if he is reading. Trust me, this is a huge incentive and it works.
The school year can be a really tricky time for some families to fit reading-for-fun into their schedule. I hope that together this advice from my son and me will offer one or more suggestions for you to squeeze some in until school lets out again!
How do you fit reading-for-fun into the school year? Tell us on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page!