Summer reading or bust: when school requirements start to spoil days at the beach

For families with kids in school, there is something about mid-July that has to be savored. That’s because it is firmly summertime: school days were long enough ago that the schedule-juggling and homework feel like distant memories, and yet there isn’t that anxious feeling about gearing back up again, which tends to happen as the summer winds down.

There is, unfortunately, summer reading pressure for many families

When choosing to read isn’t a popular leisure-time activity for a child, it can put a major damper on summer fun, especially if the parent has to be in the role of Head Nag to get an elementary-aged child to read required texts.

If you’re feeling as if summer reading progress is not going as planned because of your less-than-excited young reader, there’s hope. Here are some things that might make you feel less bad about what isn’t working, and darn good about what you are doing/could do to encourage summer reading growth:

  1. Maybe you are forced to nag to get a child to read books according to a school requirement, but you can still make reading together a valuable experience that you both feel good about through a daily read aloud. Reading to children, even those who can read on their own, and then talking about what you’ve read together, will build skills of all kinds that translate into reading and school success. Plus, the books you can read together will challenge your child in ways that his grade-level books can’t just yet.
  1. Even if there are required books that aren’t tops on your child’s list, do what you can to get your child to read books that he or she will want to read. That often means figuring out which book was last read and loved, and finding another book by the same author.
    • Remember that children don’t like to read books that are too hard for them, so set them up to be successful with appropriate texts and they can practice reading and get more automatic with reading words.
    • Also, whether your child is reading a number of short easier books or one longer one, it doesn’t really matter – and the short easy books might feel more satisfying to a reluctant reader. You just want him to practice reading as much as you can to get more automatic with word reading and build fluency. You can work on his Vocabulary & Knowledge skills while you are talking about the more complex book you are reading together (see #1).
  1. Summer often offers all types of opportunities for new experiences, whether you are on vacation or close to home. So make a point of going places that will expose your child to new ideas and new information, and then talk about what was learned together. When you go back and forth about a topic and encourage your child to, for example, compare one place to another, you are getting her to think critically and explain aloud what she has noticed. Plus, she will be building Awareness & Regulation skills as she waits her turn to talk and listens to another person’s perspective.

These ideas don’t solve the problem of getting a disinterested child to read a specific book that has been assigned by the school. So if true desperation sets in, there’s always the chore swap trick: “You can empty the dishwasher or read your book. Which do you choose?”

That one usually works to get a child reading!

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