Changing the book inventory:

Mixing up the reading routine this summer (part 2)

By now, most people are well aware of the research showing that reading to young children is linked to their later academic achievement. But the types of reading experiences matter, too, and summer is a great time to add more substance to those read-alouds without working too hard at it.

How? Today we focus on increasing book variety. With a wider range of book types and topics, and a plan to talk about the differences from one book to another, you’ll expand your child’s knowledge about different genres while also adding some fun to this summer’s reading routine.

First — Mix-up the book supply:

  1. Encourage your kids to swap books of all kinds with their friends. This will bring new titles (and hopefully some different genres) into your house and make reading and books a social event. To set up this sort of book-share, have them spend a Saturday morning doing a book-label activity to make sure you get the books back. You might even have them create a pretend library and write down (or try to write down!) who is borrowing their books and when they are “due” back. That means a chance to work in some writing practice, too!
  2. Plan to go to the library once a week. This might sound simple or obvious, but it can make a world of difference if you (re)commit to the plan and keep your supply of books fresh and fun. So work a library trip into your summer weeks, and make sure to stock up on a bunch of new and different titles as well as the old favorites. Include biographies and other non-fiction books, plus fables or poetry or fiction. Your children will look forward to going through the new batch of books, and you can encourage even more energy around the book pile by having them spend time looking it over with friends who visit, or when you have them share a particular new title with an adult who comes in the door. (Check out our Library Routine blog for more specifics.)

Second – plan to talk about the different book types and topics:

  • When you read, talk about the genre: explain what kind of book each is and how you can tell. Make it brief but point it out regularly, and over time, your child will begin to know one genre from another (e.g., This Shel Silverstein book is a book of poetry. A poetry book is full of poems. Not all poems are rhyming poems, but these are. Let’s find some of the words that rhyme!).
  • Compare one type of book to another. This is especially good to do when two different genres have the same topic (e.g., In this book, Make Way for Ducklings, the ducks talk and we learn what Mrs. Mallard is thinking. Let’s look at this book we got that tells us about a real duck, but a different kind of duck from Mrs. Mallard. This book is non-fiction, which means that what is written inside are facts not stories.)
    • When you use vocabulary describing the different genres, your children will learn new words and get a better idea of all the kinds of books available.

Unfortunately, “summer reading” can have a negative connotation during the middle- and high-school years. But when your kids are young, the summer often brings more unscheduled hours and additional vacation days — and that offers up stress-free opportunities to expand your children’s book experiences, and have great conversations about the topics that pop up.