Friday, May 17, 2013

Summer Reading—how can we make it happen?

So I found this list of ten ways to keep your kids reading over the summer on, and I found them a bit depressing. Here's the link if you want to read the details:

1. Use Hollywood to inspire your child to read

2. Play a summer reading game at your local library or start your own book club

3. Involve your child in planning your family vacation

4. Start a collection 

5. Visit a comic shop

6. Read cookbooks and packaged food labels

7. Read instruction pamphlets

8. Read the newspaper aloud

9. Get a magazine subscription for your child

10. Be a reading role model

Hmm. How to keep your kids reading over the summer? Read instruction pamphlets? Read cookbooks and packaged food labels? Wow, that sounds fun. Makes me want to go read a food label right now, just to find out what happens.

Sorry for the sarcasm, but surely, we can do better, and surely the best way to keep your kids reading over the summer is to get them to read, um, books. 

My kids have never been interested in library reading programs or really any reading programs where there is a reward at the end like pizza or free tickets to a hockey game. And I've noticed sometimes that the kids who are into the reward at the end don't seem very into the reading itself.

Read this awesome quote from Esme Coddell about how to reward kids for reading in a way that encourages them to become lifelong readers (this is a long quote, but worth reading, I promise!):

Change the way reading is rewarded.
Many big businesses offer reading incentive programs that are well-organized and seemingly generous, offering things like free pizzas and passes to amusement parks when children have read a certain amount. No wonder so many schools participate. However, consider that there is something vaguely insidious about such promotions. After all, do we reward every ten pizzas eaten with a free book? Besides the confusing mixed message that we send children by linking the potentially pleasurable act of reading with corporate branding, oftentimes it is a strain on families to actually redeem these rewards. What family is going to go get a personal pan pizza for one child, and not the whole family? The reward has actually pressured the family to patronize a restaurant in order to reward reading, which seems kind of odd. Another example: the child does not generally earn a family pass to an amusement park, he earns his own ticket, but of course, the child cannot drive himself there and supervise himself, so the parent gets to buy an adult-priced ticket, too, along with tickets for all the younger siblings and perhaps a friend or two who may not have participated in the promotion. After admission, a few hot-dogs and a tank of gas, the free pass may have actually cost well over a hundred dollars. Which is fine, if you've got it. But wouldn't it have been nicer to choose the reward, instead of having the reward choose you?

Many parents are unaware of how much these promotions may really end up costing them, and once they know, they may be very willing to arrange something the whole family can enjoy. Then, you can set your own reading goals and modify them to fit the individual needs and reward schedule of your family. What child wouldn't look forward to an end-of-the year book-themed masquerade party? The family pet that you were planning on getting anyway is extra coveted when it's thought of as a family reward. A special trip that even Miss Frizzle's class would envy (such as to a ballgame, bowling alley, a candy factory, a favorite museum) is another way to tell a whole family "congratulations for meeting your reading goals." Or keep within the spirit of literacy with a trip to the bookstore to choose their own books or books for your family library.

Individual reading achievements can be inexpensively rewarded with coupons: chore-free nights, an extra hour up past bedtime to be spent reading, a favorite breakfast, a late-night read-a-thon with a parent. These kinds of coupons are also helpful for keeping children with low interest or ability engaged, because they reward smaller steps toward the goal. 

Pretty good ideas, right? What if you promised your child if they read every day of the week for an hour, they could go to the bookstore at the end of that week and pick out a book? That's the kind of thing that makes me happy just thinking about it. A Saturday reward trip to the bookstore. Awesome. 

I know another mother who made pancakes and homemade syrup every Saturday morning and along with the delicious food, her kids were allowed to read books at the table. She said those breakfasts lasted for hours, and her kids LOVED them. (Or you could be like me and let your kids read at the table whenever they want, except dinner, and have most of your books covered in bits of food).

Here's a link to other ideas from Esme:

I don't love them all, but you might find one that works great for you.

We are definitely going to do Battle of the Books in our house again. The idea of it worked great last summer, but my execution of it stunk. I've got to figure out some sort of Round Robin way of working the competition. Kids love to compete, but it is so much better to have them rooting for their favorite books than competing with each other on number of pages or number of books read. In fact, having them read different books to pick their favorites is a way to take number of pages off the table. I'm going to confess that I am not a big fan of making kids count the number of pages they read. There are so many reasons why this is stupid, the biggest one being that the number of words on a page varies drastically by book. The second one being, what a bummer! Having to count the number of pages you read as you are trying to learn what it means to read for pleasure. 

Because that is the goal, right? We want our kids to read over the summer FOR PLEASURE. So reading becomes an easy thing, like breathing. So they choose reading over video games. 

So at the end of this rambling post, I am going to suggest an idea that, I swear to you on my future deathbed, will get your kids reading over the summer.

Turn off the TV.

Turn off the computer.

Turn off the video games.

Your kids will read when reading is the only entertainment left, and your house will be a calmer, more peaceful place. I can promise you that too.

What other ideas do you have to keep your kids reading over the summer? (Besides reading the phone book :) )

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