While it’s tempting to think of the time off from school as a time to relax the rules a little bit, at least where academics are concerned, studies have shown that students who do not spend time reading during the summer months actually return to school having lost significant ability on comprehension and vocabulary tests, whereas students who spend time interacting with books during their school holidays actually tend to return to school with gains, not just maintaining their reading levels from the previous school year.
But how do you convince your kids to turn off the television or climb out of the pool long enough to read?
Maggie McGuire, vice president of Parents and Kids channels for Scholastic, spoke to GoodEReader about not only the need to keep up with reading over the summer months, but also ways to foster the importance of reading for kids.
“When it comes to summer, statistically we know that there’s a ‘summer slide.’ When kids have reached a certain threshold of reading capabilities at the end of the school year, they don’t keep those muscles exercised or keep the habit of reading alive during the summer long, there’s literally a slide, they dip down. When they enter the school year in the fall, they have to get back to where they were. If you keep that motivation going all summer long, there’s a much higher rate of success in the classroom.”
The issue, however, is that reading has to compete with a lot of the activities that take place over the summer, and many of those activities are simply more relaxing or more fun, at least in the eyes of a lot of students, especially ones who may already struggle with reading. Incentives for students who meet reading goals can be one way to support their book time.
“We are in our seventh year of our annual summer challenge program, and we’re already at 91 million minutes. Last year, we broke the record at 95 million minutes, and we’re only in June and halfway through the challenge, and we’re definitely poised to break the world record. It means that more kids, teachers, and parents have joined our call to action around reading. We’re trying to keep it fun for kids.”
Some of the ways that McGuire suggests families can keep it fun is to keep books stashed in the pool bag or in the car for both local trips around town and long family trips. Selecting titles about destinations prior to family vacations can also excite readers and engage them along the way. But one of the most important things parents can do to encourage reading is to demonstrate to their children that they are readers themselves.
“The top two influences of kids being frequent readers are if the parents are reading role models, and books in the home. If it’s there, they’ll pick it up, if it’s not, they can’t.”
McGuire actually had a surprising piece of information in that parents can actually reverse a student’s desire to read by forcing the issue or requiring certain titles or genres. Especially during the summer downtime, reading is reading. Whether it’s graphic novels, interactive ebooks, or even tablet-based games that require some form of reading to play the game, all of these can keep the momentum for reading fun and interesting.
“It’s really about making sure first that kids make the choice, especially in the summertime. Often, during the school year they’re being told what to read or assigned what to read. We know statistically that when kids choose their own books, 92% of kids are more likely to read the book than if they didn’t choose it themselves. We encourage all formats of reading.”