During the summer, kids have lots of fun activities to choose from, from hitting the water park to grabbing ice cream at the beach. And with the right savvy strategies, diving into a great summer book can be one of them! As a mom with a few tricks myself, I reached out to other parents across the country to get their tried-and-true approaches for helping kids look at reading as a joyful, fun experience — and not a chore.
Whether you’re trying to motivate your kids to get through an assigned reading list for school, or they're participating in the fun Scholastic Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge — a free, educational program in which your kids can enter their reading minutes to earn exclusive digital rewards and help donate books to kids in need — these mom-approved approaches will keep them reading. Get started today, and watch your kid fly through those pages.
1. Talk up summer reading.
Even the way we speak about reading during the summer can impact how our kids feel about it. I never understood why my twin boys would sometimes balk when I said it was “time to read” until I was talking to a friend about how happy we are as adults when we have free time and “get” to read. Switching the narrative with my kids and talking about reading in terms of a reward we get to enjoy, rather than a chore, makes them feel more positive about settling down with a book. During the summer, I say, “We get to have reading time after lunch!” rather than, “We have to read after lunch!” to motivate them to grab a book.
2. Find a special reading spot.
Entice them with a cozy nook they can only use for reading. A hammock on the porch that sways in the breeze or a fort in the basement built with spare sheets (my kids’ favorite) are great places they can retreat to and get lost in a good book. You just might struggle to get them to come to dinner! Here are more perfectly relaxing places for your kids to read this summer.
3. Read what they’re reading.
“The thing that has always worked best with my 14-year-old daughter is that I read books we select simultaneously, and we sort of become our own little summer book club with ice cream cones,” says Stacy Bierlein, a mom in Newport Beach, California. Two good options to start with: Explore the theme of teamwork in Lety Out Loud, a captivating read about a girl who gets wrapped up in a risky writing competition at the animal shelter where she volunteers, or take a walk down memory lane and get them just as hooked on The Baby-Sitters Club books as you were as a kid.
4. Create an atmosphere.
Shanna Westlake of Rockville, Maryland, says simply turning the lights off helps get her 5-year-old daughter excited to dive into a book. “A flashlight at bedtime always gets her to read,” she says. It can also help make the entire experience more special for your little reader. My own kids also love using a flashlight to explore books before bed: Remy says the glowing light makes the story more exciting and “feels like magic.” Try it with a book like Hidden Figures, the awe-inspiring true story about the four black female mathematicians who helped NASA launch astronauts into space.
5. Turn playdates into "book club."
Katie Hurley, a mom of two in Los Angeles, suggests turning regular playdates into a chance to discuss a book all of the kids have recently read. “Let kids come up with an activity to go with the themes of the books,” she says. For instance, you could plan a ramen lunch after they read Dragons Eat Noodles on Tuesdays!
6. Read to them (no matter how old they are).
Audiobooks designed for adults are proof that you’re never too old to listen to a story. Marissa Fraser, a 3rd-grade teacher in Brookfield, Connecticut, says her own love of reading came in part from her mom reading to her and her siblings over summer breaks. It’s also a great way to expose them to books they might find challenging to read alone. “She read some books aloud to us that were a little harder than what we could read on our own,” says Fraser. Try it yourself by reading the first book in a faced-paced series like Harry Potter or the Hunger Games to your kids — and don’t be surprised if they pick up the second book in the series on their own.
7. Put a reward system in place.
If getting your child to sit down with a book is a struggle, allowing them to work toward a prize might make things easier. Set a goal, like reading one easy book per day for younger kids or one chapter of a book per day for older kids. Let them work to earn a special prize, like a new hula hoop or a trip to the movie theater. I used this technique with my own kids last summer, reading a chapter of the Magic Tree House books every day with them. By the end of summer, they were completely hooked on the series and are already asking if we can pick it up again this year.
8. Make a travel buddy.
If your kids loved participating in Flat Stanley activities in school (in which they mail Stanley, the character based on the Flat Stanley book series, to friends and family around the world), continue the fun this summer! Make a Flat Stanley travel journal and take photos of him at the zoo, the beach, or wherever else you go this summer — or send him to people you know in different cities, and ask them to send him back with a note describing what he did there. Tamara Butler, a mom of one and former teacher in Atlantic City, New Jersey, says it’s a fun and easy way to teach kids about other places. “Talk about different cultures, continents, and food,” she says. “It’s an amazing way for your kids to have fun while learning about the world.”
9. Team up with animals.
Reading to the family pet is a great, low-pressure way for shy readers to practice — after all, Fido won’t judge if they struggle with a word or two. When I saw that my son Lolo was reluctant to sound out words in front of me because he doesn’t like making mistakes, I suggested he read to our cat, Riley. It helped him practice without the fear of being judged, and now I’ll regularly find them curled up in his bed together with a new title.
If your kids don’t have a fur sibling, keep in mind that many animal shelters welcome kids to come read to the animals (the pets benefit from the socialization just as much as the kids benefit from the reading practice). Any book will do, but Pete the Cat books and Dog Man books are good starting picks to stay on theme.
Browse great books by age from the Scholastic Read-a-Palooza Summer Reading Challenge at the Scholastic Store Online.
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