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  • Writer's pictureMelanie C.

Getting Kids (Kinda) Excited About Summer Reading

Thousands of children in the Central Alabama will soon begin their summer vacations and their annual break from homework, tests and assignments. Unfortunately, many of them will stop reading while having fun in the sun and experts say parents need to make sharing books a part of summer vacation and establish regular reading routines for their children. “Summer reading should be all about the parent-child experience,” said Gabrielle Miller, Ed.D., president and CEO of Raising A Reader. “Rather than having it be a chore, or a list of must-read books, summer is a terrific opportunity to build family reading experiences. Whether it’s as simple as reading with children so they can see how much adults love reading, or visiting places and doing activities tied to a book, there are a host of ways reading can help children enjoy the summer and be ready to start school in the fall.”

Read Aloud. Read Aloud. Read Aloud. Even if you take a break from school for the summer, keep reading aloud. Whether you do this over dinner, after swimming, or before bedtime, reading aloud is one of the best ways to bond with your children, increase vocabulary, and generally help them love books. My husband and I even read aloud to our teenagers as well as to each other. There's almost nothing better than HEARING a good book.

It’s OK to let your child read e-books if he or she is comfortable using a tablet, but remember, whether it’s an e-book or a print book — especially for young children — the most important thing is to spend time together sharing the book. It’s about the experience, not the technology.

Take a look around your home. Does every chair face a TV? What activities does your living space encourage?

Try this challenge: Set up at least as many comfortable spaces to read as you have screens in your home (phones included).

Start by thinking about where your family gravitates. Choose something decorative to hold a selection of books and make that space comfy. Forts built with sheets and blankets are one of my children's favorite places to read. Don't forget to keep books in the car and the bathroom. You could even have your kids build a reading fort!

Make it fun. Have your child come up with a different ending to a story, play ‘what if’ with the characters or the setting, or read the book from end to beginning. Come up with fun ways to engage your child beyond the actual reading of the book.

Let your child choose. Books are great, but so are comic books, magazines and even educational websites such as National Geographic Kids or The Discovery Channel. Let them chase their interests and they’ll be reading more than they realize.

Create an outdoor reading area so the whole family can enjoy the summer weather and not feel stuck inside. Children generally read indoors, so being outdoors will create a new environment for enjoying a book and boost a child’s enthusiasm for reading.

Connect with other families to share books and arrange reading playdates. You can even set up a Facebook group to stay in touch and share ideas, swap books and make plans.

Write a book with your child about them, your family, their favorite foods or toy, their friends or whatever interests them most. Your child can draw pictures or use actual photos. If you’re worried that your child spends too much time watching TV or playing video games, have him or her tell you or write a story about their favorite TV show or video game. You can also use one of many templates available to create and print the book on your computer.

Invite the family pet to join the book sharing experience. Even if your child can’t read yet, have her ‘read’ the story to you and the pet. Children who can read will be able to practice their skills and children who have not yet learned to read will begin to think of themselves as ‘readers’ which is very important to lifelong learning.

Get Caught Reading. Have your children ever caught you eating candy and not begged for some, too? The same thing happens with books, but with less mess and fewer calories. When my kids see me enamored with a book, they naturally mimic this behavior and get a sense that reading is just what we do.

This mirroring of behavior actually happens at the neurological level. Even when you are reading, your child's neurons are firing as they learn to imitate you.

Find books that are centered on summer activities he or she enjoys. If your child likes to go horseback riding, for example, find books about horses or stories with horses as an integral part of the plot. This will give a child a welcome change from the types of books read during the school year and better complement their summer.

If you are taking a trip, read books about your destination with your child before you leave. Do some research with them on the location and find things in the area they want to do while visiting. And don’t forget to play “I Spy” with road signs or license plates along the way.

If you are taking your kids somewhere for the day, such as a pool, the beach, a picnic or the zoo, pack a book to share and have a reading break or two during day. After an hour or so in the water, your child may enjoy 30 minutes of reading on a comfortable chair or even floating on a raft.

Create a summer reading challenge with family members or connect to your public library’s summer reading challenge activities. When your child meets the challenge make sure there is time to talk about the book, share the story with others and read the next book.

Here are some fun Summer Reading Programs to help encourage your family to read this summer:

Pizza Hut BOOKIT! Reading Program Parents, join us for Camp BOOK IT! and keep rewarding your kids all summer long. Track and reward your kids' reading for June, July and August in our digital dashboard. When they meet their monthly reading goal, they'll receive a free one-topping Personal Pan Pizza® from Pizza Hut! We'll also share fun activities and book recommendations each week to keep the fun going throughout the summer!

Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Journal is a fun and easy way for kids to earn free books. They simply read a designated number of books – library books, books borrowed from friends or books bought at Barnes & Noble – write about their favorite part in our Reading Journal, and bring a completed Reading Journal to a Barnes & Noble bookstore. Children then choose their free book from the books listed on the Reading Journal and collect their free book from a store near them during July and August.

A Birmingham Native, Melanie C. is the Publishing Editor of Alabama Family Connections Magazine. As a Homeschooling Wife and Mother of 8, she enjoys sharing valuable resources with other Central Alabama Families. She spends her free time traveling, reading, shopping, and exploring all that Birmingham (and everywhere else!) has to offer. Melanie is also a contributing writer for the Alabama WIC program as well as a writer for a homeschool curriculum publisher. If you would like to contact Melanie, you may reach her via email at

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