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  • How to Keep Kids Reading This Summer

    Tips for avoiding the 'summer slide'

    Rachel Ehmke

    Summer means a much-needed break for kids, but it can also mean a break in learning and, in many cases, a regrettable loss of newly developed reading skills.

    The so-called “summer slide” is particularly problematic for kids who are already struggling with reading. If you don’t want to risk a child losing ground over the summer, it’s important to make sure he has opportunities to practice his growing reading skills. Summer doesn’t need to stall your child’s progress, and it can even be an opportunity to gain reading fluency and enthusiasm.

    Find some good reads

    The first thing kids need to keep reading during the summer is easy access to books. During the school year, most of the books they read may be assigned for class. Summer gives you the chance to spice things up by introducing reading that is more fun and tailored to your child’s interests. The library is always a good place to start looking for children’s books. Many libraries keep lists of good books broken down by reading level to help guide you. Reading experts also suggest following the “five finger rule” when choosing books: have your child open up a book and read the first page. For every word she doesn’t know, have her raise one finger. If she has more than five fingers raised at the end of the page, the book is probably too hard.

    Choosing books gets trickier when kids are older and have developed more definite tastes—including, for some, an established aversion to reading. Recommendations from librarians can still be helpful here, since they see a wide range of kids and know all the resources the library provides. Also, their suggestions might surprise you. A child who likes to play sports might find books more interesting if they are biographies of famous athletes. Remember, traditional story-driven narratives aren’t appealing for every kid. Books about computers or animals or science will sometimes capture attention when a novel does not.

    Don’t limit yourself to books, either. Kids like getting mail, and a magazine subscription in their name to a children’s magazine like National Geographic Kids or American Girl provides a variety of new things to read each month. Many kids who avoid traditional books also find that they enjoy reading comics, which can be slightly more accessible and still offer a solid reading experience. Graphic novels for kids like the enormously popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid series have converted many an unenthusiastic reader.

    Reading at the right level

    Summer reading books shouldn’t be so easy that they are boring, but they also shouldn’t be so challenging that they frustrate a child. It is important for kids to experience the confidence that comes from succeeding with a book. The best part about summer reading is that it gives kids the opportunity to build up positive experiences—reading doesn’t always need to feel like work.

    Teachers and tutors who have been working with your child during the school year are another great resource for recommending books. They’ll be more attuned to books that are at your child’s “independent level”—books he can comfortably read by himself—and books at his “instructional level,” which are a little more difficult. Kids actually need to experience both.

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