Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Reading

As we settle into summer, we are trying to figure out how to make reading part of our day. We want it to be that our kids want to read, not a chore (as it is summer!) but fun. We asked two sources who are experts in the kids reading field to help us. The kids department at Powell's Books (the most amazing bookstore in Portland, OR where my cousin worked and I literally had to stop myself from buying due to luggage space!) and the wonderful Brooklyn Public Library. We hope you find their tips as insightful as we do and they help get your kids reading!



How would we encourage kids to read this summer (and forever more)? As the mother of a toddler, I say, "Monkey see, monkey do." Parents who read for pleasure themselves set the best example.

Go to the library or the book store with the goal of picking out one book for each member of the family. Unplug the TV, take off the iPod, and turn off the computer for a pre-determined, set time and make this your "Everybody Reads Hour." Read to the little ones, or have older children read with them. Let everyone pick his or her own special chair, pillow, nook or spot in the yard to read, and provide a simple snack & refreshments. This doesn't have to be every day, just as long as everyone knows when it will be and the preparation is a family endeavor. The important thing is to make it fun & let kids decide as much as possible about their reading time. Putting reading on a "to do" list or making it a contest may backfire: nobody likes chores, and contests are usually only fun for the "winners."

Making individual charts, goodreads profiles, or reading journals can be fun, but talking about what you've all read will probably make a more lasting impression. Maybe a meal-time round-robbin in which each family member talks about what he/she is reading?

Pick out a chapter book to read aloud as a family in the evenings or on long car rides. Plan to do something to celebrate the end of the story, like a meal with dishes inspired by the book. Get friends or extended family members to read the same book & have a party with the book as a theme. Holidays and vacations are good sources of interesting subjects. Look into fiction & nonfiction about your destinations. Do some literary sight-seeing: visit authors' historical homes or see places described in favorite books and keep a literary photo-journal. Karen B. and I have traveled a lot together & we always make it a habit to visit the local independent book stores & libraries in small towns. Libraries (and librarians) frequently have information on local points of interest, and independent book stores usually stock local authors.

In terms of choosing books to interest your kids, my motto is "guide, don't decide." Autonomy is really important in building a kid's interest in reading. Here's a common scenario: the parent wants the kid to read Roald Dahl, the kid wants to read Pokemon. I say compromise. Sure, the Pokemon books are fluff, but if that's where the motivation to read for pleasure is, let the kid pursue it without comment or judgement. Then, read the Roald Dahl together.

As for recommended reading lists, we don't have specific summer ones. We have many bookmarks divided by age & interest, but for summer recommendations here in the store, we tend to fly by the seat of our pants.


Tips for parents of school age children:

* Ask the Children's Librarian to recommend books based on your child's interests and reading level. Encourage your child to try the book, but don't force it.

* Let your child browse in the library and choose her own recreational reading. Remember that we all like to relax with some light, fun reading sometimes.

* Encourage your child to look in the nonfiction section. It's ok to prefer books about real things rather than stories.

* Continue to read aloud to your child. Hearing new vocabulary and stories will help him or her grow as a reader.

* Providing books is not enough. Talk about what they are reading. Studies show that discussion is essential in gaining comprehension skills.

* Join the library's Summer Reading program. New Yorkers of all ages can post book reviews, create an avatar, and earn virtual badges. The Brooklyn Public Library also has a game children can play all summer long, collecting stickers and winning prizes for reading and visiting the library.

Tips for early childhood, from our website:

In Your Home

* Read with your child every day in the language in which you're most comfortable.

* Keep books and magazines handy for your child to play with and read.

* Be a model reader. When your child sees you enjoying books and magazines, she'll be eager to read too.

* Talk to your child when you read together. Ask questions like, "How does the boy in the story feel?"

* Make reading come alive with funny voices, sound effects and gestures.

In Your Neighborhood

* Read cereal boxes and other labels with your child in the supermarket.

* Read the signs on buses and trains.

* Go to story times at museums, zoos, botanic gardens and the library.

In Your Library

* Borrow audiobooks and CD kits, and listen together on-the-go.

* Join the Reading is Fundamental (RIF) program at your library to receive free books.

* Go to early reading programs like Babies & Books, Preschool Story Time, Story Play and Toddler Time.

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