Sunday, July 14, 2013

Easy Ideas to Help Get Your Kids Reading This Summer

Getting Your Tweens and Teens
Reading This Summer!

by Mary Brigid Barrett

Most adults assume that once kids become independent readers they do not like to be read aloud to or told stories. Totally wrong. Young kids and teens love to hear stories and love to have books read aloud to them. Summer is a great time for the whole family to read aloud together.

Be a Reading Role Model
When was the last time you picked up a book to read in the summer just for pleasure and enjoyment? If you read, and kids see you reading, they will read, too. And if you are an adult they love and respect and are not one of their parents, your influence is a hundred times stronger!

Take Advantage of Car Time

  • Summer time means lots of travel time. Most libraries are stocked full of books on tape. Hours of boring car time can become pleasurable for the whole family listening to a tape of an Agatha Christie novel or the latest best-selling young adult book.
  • Play word and memory games with kids in the car. "I Spy," "I'm Going on a Picnic," and the "Find the Letters of the Alphabet Game" are popular with kids of all ages. If you are not familiar with these games, your local children's librarian will have books that can teach you these great games and more.
  • Take the time to go on field trips with your kids, no matter what their age. Peer groups are important to tweens (ages 10-12) and teens, so let them bring a friend along. Take public transportation to a city and just walk and look all day. Take a beach day. Visit the zoo. Try out the art museum. See a ball game. Take a walk in the woods. Go places you always wanted to visit when you were a kid. Then, and most importantly, talk about the trip with your kids. Ask them questions that require more than a one word response. Encourage your kids to have well thought-out opinions.
  • Take a trip back to the neighborhood you grew up in and share your memories, positive and negative, with your kids. You will be surprised how curious they are about your life.
Ideas for Reluctant Readers
  • A reluctant reader is a kid who can read, but does not. Most of our reluctant readers are young men. In a 1999 survey of over 3,000 teens, ages 11-18, over 50% of the girls said they read regularly outside of class assignments for fun. Only 32% of the boys questioned stated that they read for pleasure. Want a great way to get our boys reading this summer? Give them comic books and graphic novels. Start with the comic pages in your own town newspaper. Move on to The Far Side and Calvin and Hobbes collections. Try Tom Strong by Alan Moore of DC Comics. Go to a book store or comic store and ask for the Adventures of Tintin, comic books so popular they have now been translated into 22 languages.
  • Great books for older boys include: an intense poetry collection by rap star, Tupak Shakur, The Rose Grew from the Concrete; super skateboarder, Tony Hawk's autobiography, HAWK; Louis Sacher's Holes; Edward Bloor's Tangerine; Christopher Paul Curtis's The Watsons Go to Birmingham; Ben Bo's Skullcrack; and Paul Fleischman's Bull Run.
  •  Keep paperback books and magazines in your car, in your beach bag, or with your camping equipment. Older kids love magazines, and you can borrow many of the magazines kids love from your local library. Magazines kids love include: Teen People, Sports Illustrated for Kids and Sports Illustrated, Seventeen, Omni Magazine, Discover Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Preview.
  • Start a mother/daughter book discussion group with your daughter's friends and their mothers. Everyone can take turns providing refreshments, and, because it’s summer, you can meet in the park or at the beach. You can begin with Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, or The Giver by Lois Lowry. Find Edna Ferber’s old novels: Saratoga Trunk, So Big, Showboat, Cimarron, and Giant—and discuss if society’s attitudes have changed concerning women and minorities.  Ferber’s novels inspired a number of plays and movies, many of which are now available on video and DVD. Rent one of the movies after you have all read the book and have a great popcorn party.  Ask your local librarian for further book suggestions and information on conducting book discussion groups.
Provide Reading List Assistance
  • The libraries that most kids have access to are their own school libraries, but school libraries are closed in the summer. Make an extra effort to get your kids to their neighborhood public library and make sure they, and you, have a library card. Most public libraries have summer reading incentive programs. Encourage your kids to enroll in the program and read all summer with them.
  • Many schools give mandatory or suggested summer reading lists to their students. Many kids, even the best readers, read books from school lists with reluctance. They would prefer to remove all school references from their lives in the summer. The best way to encourage kids to read from mandatory lists is to share the reading experience with them. Take turns reading chapters out loud together. Or, read silently and discuss the book as you go along.

Life long readers are readers who enjoy reading.  Summertime provides a unique opportunity when kids are away from school for kids to learn that reading, story, and books are fun and entertaining. Summer is also the time of endless program reruns on television. So turn off the TV and play a board game with your kids, go outside and show them the stars, or read a book together. When we, as adults, take the time to share our passions and pleasures with our children, those passions and pleasures become theirs, too. Have some fun this summer, read with your kids!

Parent references available in your local library or bookstore: 
  • The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, revised edition 2006, Penguin Books
  • Great Books About Things Kids Love by Kathleen Odean, 2001, Ballantine Books
  • Great Books for Girls by Kathleen Odean, 2002, Ballantine Books
  • Great Books for Boys by Kathleen Odean, 1998, Ballantine Books
  • American Library Association: For booklists and other suggestions send a self-addressed stamped envelope to ALA, East Huron Street, Chicago, IL, 60611 or go to
  • Science Books and Films (part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science): For booklists and other suggestions send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Science Books and Films, 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington DC 20005 or
  • The Center for the Book, at the Library of Congress: For a comprehensive listing of literacy organizations and reading partners, book festivals, literary events, and activities promoting reading and writing across the nation, write to: The Center for the Book, Library of Congress, 101 Independence Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20540-4920 or
For more articles that provide parents and guardians helpful advice for creating lifelong readers, check out the NCBLA's Parent and Guardian Handbook!