Every year when the last school bell rings for the summer, kids across America hope to close their textbooks and spend their afternoons at the neighborhood pool or playing video games.
However, as much as they want to take a break from the demand of schoolwork, summer vacation can actually be detrimental to their learning.
According to one study, 66 percent of eighth graders tested below proficient in reading last year and the “summer slump” or “summer slide” plays a large role in this. In fact, 66 percent of educators spend at least one month re-teaching students old material in the fall.
It’s important that kids stay mentally stimulated and engaged all summer long so they can pick up where they left off in the fall. While reading may be at the bottom of the summer to-do list, it’s important that parents, educators or anyone spending time with kids in the summer, encourage them to make time for reading.
These six simple ideas will help you motivate kids to read more this summer, making it more fun and engaging.
Let Them Choose
Every fall students come back to school having read too few books and it’s frustrating for teachers and challenging for students. Schools across the country have tried to enforce summer reading lists, selected by well-intentioned educators.
However, these types of summer reading programs can only be efficient if children are allowed to choose what they want to read. According to a Scholastic study of 1,000 middle and high school students, those who were given the opportunity to choose the books they read are more likely to read more frequently for fun.
In addition, Scholastic reported 73 percent of kids ages 6-17 say they would read more if they could find books they enjoy. When kids are able to choose books that relate to their own personal interests, it fosters a lifelong enjoyment of reading.
Play Summer Reading Bingo
Summer reading bingo can be a fun game to inspire kids to read all summer long. There are plenty of free printouts on Pinterest, or you can make your own bingo cards. Here are a few ideas for your Bingo categories:
Who: read to your neighbor, an adult, a friend etc.
What: read your favorite genre, poetry, magazine etc.
When: read in the morning, while on vacation or in the car;
Where: read under the starts, in a tent, by the pool or in a tree house.
How: read with an accent, in your bathing suit, or with a flashlight.
Don’t forget to pick a motivating prize to reward their hard work.
Give Each Week a Theme
Turn each week of the summer into a theme for reading, kind of like a summer camp at home. Let kids choose which themes they like best and then plan activities related to each one. Activities could include field trips, arts and crafts, movies and reading one book per week.
Give them a list of themes that reinforce what they’ve learned all year in school such as outer space, science, oceans, animals or backyard fun. When you supplement reading books with other fun activities, you can keep your kids engaged and learning.
Reading Challenges and Coupons
Consider summer reading challenges for your kids, either a competition between siblings or a goal for the number of books to have read by the end of the summer. Giving them something to work toward, or coupons along they way, could be the motivation they need to keep reading.
Maybe your child really wants to visit a particular amusement park or wants to go on a camping trip. Besides improving literacy skills, encouraging them to work hard for what they want is a great life lesson.
Go Beyond the Book
It’s important for kids to go beyond reading the book cover to cover. Book reports and summaries can be boring, but real-life application and experiences are fun for kids of all ages—even you!
If your kids are reading about marine life, take them to visit an aquarium or buy them their own fish tank. If they enjoy books about space or science, take them to a museum or conduct a simple science experiment at home. The possibilities are endless and it’s important to get creative so they get excited about learning.
Be a Reading Role Model
As a parent, you can encourage reading by keeping books in the home and actually setting aside time to read them. “You have to model the behaviors and attitudes toward reading you want your children to emulate,” suggests Jordan Shapiro, writing for Forbes. Agree to participate in the reading challenges or read as many books as them, whatever it takes to set a good example and get your kids motivated.
Take It Online
While it’s been widely debated, most studies show the text delivery method—whether it’s on an iPad or print—is irrelevant. Electronic devices increase access to books and are definitely capable of delivering long-form text. Provide your kids with ebook readers and give them a budget every month that they can spend on new reading.
You could also get creative, using a tool like KidsEmail to encourage kids to read non-fiction text: emails from you, their grandparents and more. Kidsemail is a kid-friendly email platform, and gives you a chance to encourage not just reading, but writing as well.