When my boys were younger, one was an avid reader and the other was not. During the school year, the natural progression of their curriculum kept them engaged in reading. But summers were another story. Even my read-a-holic rebelled against daily reading as he got older, especially when the pool was calling his name. I had to find creative ways to keep them reading over the summer. Here are some of the tricks that worked for us.
- Find Good Reads. I cannot tell you how many trips we made to the installation library. We saw it as an adventure. In middle school, we would scour the aisles to find the popular series of the day. When they were younger, we would scour the kid’s section for a hidden treasure. Installation libraries have always provided a destination that is out of the house and full of possibility. It was rare that we would return only with what we were looking for when we arrived. We always found something better. Summer is the time to let your kids explore books they wouldn’t typically choose during the school year. Reading outside their comfort zone might be precisely what they need to be bitten by the reading bug.
- Start a Kid’s Book Club. This works well, especially if the service members are deployed. Book clubs don’t have to be an adult-only activity. Gather a group of families from your unit, or a group of friends and their kids, and pick a book together. When my husband was deployed to Iraq, we had a Friday supper club where five families gathered together for food and conversation. Why not throw in a book too, especially if the kids are small? There is something to be said for gathering the unit kids around a book – and each other. The simple act of togetherness can go a long way.
- Explore the MWR Summer Reading Program. Enroll in the DoD Morale, Welfare, and Recreation’s summer reading program. This year’s program offers new and exciting activities including crafts, STEM events, recommended reading lists, incentives, films and more for children, teens and adults. If you’re a member of the Guard or reserve or don’t have access to a local installation Summer Reading Program, you can still participate in the Summer Reading Program virtually.
- Create a Reward System for Reading a Short Period Each Day. This will look different for every family. Different types of rewards motivate kids; try stickers, screen time or maybe a sweet treat. Set an age-appropriate goal for reading each day. If you aren’t sure how long your child should be reading, ask their teacher before the school year ends. Make a chart or special journal you can use to keep track of reading goals achieved. And when they achieve or surpass their goals, be sure to celebrate their accomplishments!
- Keep a Consistent Schedule. Set time aside each day for your child to read, at the same time every day. Make the library a regular part of your summer by planning out weekly trips. Be mindful of the time of day you choose. It may be a good chance for you to discover at what point in the day your child is most engaged. Maybe they are an after-breakfast reader, or maybe they love reading before bed. Setting a schedule with your child instead of for offers consistency and can reduce the frustration you might receive from them when it’s time to read.
Keeping your kids’ reading during the summer can be a real challenge. Everyone wants a break, but regular reading over the summer can keep little brains focused on more than just the pool. Good luck!