Getting Kids to Feel the Need to Read During Summer

Engage with the West Michigan Woman Community!

"No more classrooms, no more books, no more ..." Waaaait a minute. No more books? Let's try that again: "No more classrooms, but take a look! All summer long, I'll be reading my books!" That's better.

If that little ditty didn't scream "elementary teacher," I don't know what would!

I know, I know. This whole summer vacation thing brings a slew of emotions amongst the parents. I'll keep my happy dance quiet if it will make you happy, but as a teacher I am over the moon that the year has come to an end. I had the best class of eighteen adorable first-graders with rock star parents. I love my students dearly—I really do—but according to my morning tally chart, we spent 172 lovely days together. And lovely days they were, even with six snow days and countless inside recess days, but we survived the year and I am now celebrating!

As a mom I'm very much ready for some down time with my own kids. No more folders to check (I say "check" lightly). No more lunches to make. No more dragging my kids out of their cozy beds. But there is one thing that I won't let my own children slack on over the summer months: reading.

Keeping kids reading during the summer months is a must! I know for many kids, reading is an undesirable task—especially when they are outside of school. Some kids will read willingly at school, but will do anything under the sun to avoid it at home. When kids don't read over the summer, their reading level is almost always lower when school starts back up in the fall. We all know how fast the school year picks up once it starts, and there's not much time then to make up for lost reading time.

Here are some suggestions on making summer reading a fun and enjoyable activity (not a chore) for your children:

  • Make reading fun! Find fun places for children to read—a tent outside, a fort, the garden, on the porch swing, at the park, et cetera.
  • Get children their own card for the local library. Kent District Libraries are wonderful resources for summer! They also have summer reading incentive programs. Many school districts have summer reading incentive programs, as well.
  • Reward kids if necessary. I'm not much for extrinsic rewards, but it truly does motivate some kids. Keep a reading chart and set a goal. Let them pick a reward (trip to the ice cream shop, a play date) when their goal is met.
  • If possible, set time aside every day for reading. Consistency will be key, especially for those kids who are not naturally motivated to read. For example, every day after lunch have them read for twenty minutes. That way, they know it's coming and they won't try to make other plans at that time. Parents need to be consistent with this and reinforce this every day! Once kids know they can get out of it once every now and then, they won't take it as seriously.
  • At times when you may be traveling and you don't have a large selection of books, have them read other things—cereal boxes, menus at restaurants, billboards, and so on. Fun reading games while traveling are the typical ABC word hunts. Kids will find words on billboards, signs, or vehicles for every letter of the alphabet.
  • Set up a neighborhood book club! Reading with friends is more fun.
  • Ask a neighbor with younger children if your child could come read to their children. This could be viewed as their first "job"! Your neighbor may love it, as it will give him or her twenty minutes to toss in a load of laundry or to get dinner started.
  • Read with your kids. Choose a chapter book suitable for your child and read it together every day or night. My son and I like to choose books that also have a movie. After reading the book, we watch the movie together and compare/contrast the stories.
  • Other fun, nontypical reading activities are MadLibs. You can find tons of these free online if you search "MadLibs for kids." Kids will enjoy filling them out and then reading them out loud!
  • Reading and writing go hand in hand. Kids should also be writing! Have them keep a summer journal and they can spend time rereading it.
  • Choose a friend from school, church, or far away to be a summer pen pal. Kids love getting mail and e-mail. Reading letters is fun for kids!I hope this helps your kids feel the need to read this summer!

There are great online resources to encourage summer reading, too.

Click here for reading resources from "Reading Brain."
Click here for resources from Starfall.
Click here for resources from PBS.
Click here for resources from Book Adventure.

 authorWritten by: Carrie TenBrink, first grade teacher, Cannonsburg Elementary, and mother of three.

More stories you'll love