With only days left on the school calendar, many parents are frantically trying to organize activities that will keep their children busy and happy during the long, lazy days of summer. One idea that is both fun and good for the brain is summer reading. Some parents may feel equipped to design their own system, but others may feel out of their depth when trying to chose the right books, establish expectations and schedules, and get their children to comply without a fight. Luckily for these parents, there are many programs to choose from that include goals and incentives to motivate young readers as well as lists of recommended books to help parents make informed choices.
San Diego county libraries offer social and competitive reading programs for kids. Events associated with the program often include ice cream socials, pizza parties, and movie nights, and there are prizes for pick up when goals are reached. Older youth can volunteer at their local library to be a summer reading program assistant, a great way for tweens and teens to foster their own summer reading while learning how to mentor younger readers. The theme of Carlsbad City library’s summer reading program this year is “Paws to Read,” using cute critters to draw very young readers’ interest.
Retail bookstores such as Barnes and Noble offer similar incentive programs, wherein kids can earn a free book for reading eight and keeping a log. Even Scholastic.com, well-known for classroom book catalogs and teacher resources, offers a Summer Reading Challenge. With resources for kids, teachers, and parents, Scholastic aims to set a new summer reading world record this year! For the more do-it-yourself parent, there are well-founded ideas about home reading programs, or school-assigned summer assignments that are not supervised outside the home, such as those described by Rutgers education professor Carol Gordon in her action research report titled “A Never-Ending Story.”
Research such as Gordon’s and that of respected educational researcher Stephen Krashen supports that the “summer slide” – that period between June and August when students seem to take a step backwards in their academic growth – is a real occurrence. Engaging in summer reading programs may help students maintain levels of comprehension and intellectual development achieved in the school term. Research also indicates that key aspects of a successful reading program include access to books and the reader’s choice of material. So, bringing kids into a library or bookstore where a vast array of tempting covers and titles is at their fingertips seems like a no-brainer. These researchers don’t propone the use of incentives such as ice cream and prizes, but neither do they indicate that those extras have any negative effect on young readers. If nothing else, the parties, prizes, and organized programs meld a typically independent, solo activity with social outings and fun – a win/win for both parents and kids as they seek to fill summer days with positive, productive, and mostly painless pursuits.
Mraz, Maryann and Rasinski, Timothy V. Summer Reading Loss. 2007. Reading Rockets. WETA: Washington D.C. Accessed July 18, 2011. http://www.readingrockets.org/article/15218/
Terzian, Mary; Moore, Kristin Anderson; Hamilton, Kathleen. Effective and Promising Summer Learning Programs and Approaches for Economically-Disadvantaged Children and Youth: A White Paper for the Wallace Foundation. July 10, 2009. Accessed July 18, 2011. http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/summer-and-extended-le…
MacDonell, Colleen. Making the case for pleasure reading. Teacher Librarian, Apr2004, Vol. 31 Issue 4, p30-32
Krashen, Stephen. Free Reading. School Library Journal, Sep2006, Vol. 52 Issue 9, p42-45