We’re already over half-way through the summer, and a return to school is probably beginning to loom on both students’ and parents’ minds. (Maybe even some teachers, too. I’m just sayin.’)
If you’re a parent, maybe you’re feeling a little guilty because your child hasn’t done much summer reading so far.
No worries. Better late than never, right?
You can start your student on a reading program this week! Studies show that 20 minutes a day really is enough to keep them sharp. Your local library undoubtedly has programs of some sort. Most have probably been going on for a while at this point, but it could be a little extra incentive for your child. In case the local programs have ended, you could always even find your own way to incentivize them! Maybe if they read 20 minutes a day for seven straight days, you can take them to a movie. You know, that kind of thing. We all love prizes, don’t we?
Now, feel free to email me if you’d like to really dive deeply into the benefits of reading, but for the purpose of this article, I’m going to keep it pretty simple and commonsense.
First and foremost, though, let me say this: there is NO downside to summer reading. Again: there is NO downside to summer reading. It’s ALL positive.
Whew! Glad to have that out of the way.
Okay, so, it’s a fact that summer loss can occur if a student does not continue to engage their brain with reading and math. It makes sense, right? The brain is like a muscle–if it doesn’t get exercise, it gets weak, flabby, and kind of useless. Some studies have shown that those students who don’t read over the summer can spend the first few months of school trying to catch up to where they were at the end of the previous year! Yikes! So, if nothing else, reading in the summer keeps that brain in shape.
Furthermore, just like with exercise, the more a student reads, the stronger a reader they become. Their vocabulary will continue to increase; their comprehension will grow; their creativity will progress; even their writing skills will improve. After all, it was Stephen King who said–and I paraphrase–the best writers are always voracious readers.
I bet right now you are pretty on board with me, right? But you’re also thinking, “Scott, buddy, I’m not much of a reader myself. How in the world am I supposed to know what to give my kid to read? I’m not a teacher!” Luckily, the answer is pretty simple. Let them read whatever it is that they want to read. Easy, right?
Of course, use common sense. I don’t know that I would allow a ten year old to read Fifty Shades of Grey. The truth is, in my opinion, that it’s going to be hard enough to get most students to read in the summer. If you try to dictate the material, well, you may be destined for disappointment.
For example, my oldest daughter loves graphic novels. I pretty much let her grab whatever she wants from the children’s section of our local library. I quickly flip through them, just to see if anything catches my eye. However, I also get her a stack of chapter books that I think will interest her. I don’t force those chapter books on her, but I do every once in a while suggest that she gives one a try. More often than not, she’ll have a chapter book she’s working on while she tears through several graphic novels.
If your student loves sports, get books about those favorite teams or athletes. If they love video games, get them books about the history of the industry, or how to enter the field as an adult. If they love fashion, get them books about famous designers or books about how to break into that world. I believe with all my heart that a student will read if you put a book in front of them that deals with their interests. In the teaching biz, we call that “high interest reading material.”
Finally, you’re surely concerned about how to check to see if your student is actually reading. (Some of us have mastered the fine art of sleeping with our eyes open, after all.) Again, you don’t have to be a teacher to pull out some basic comprehension questions. Here are five simple ones to get the ball rolling …
- So, tell me, what was your book about?
- What did you like about the main character?
- Describe the most interesting part of the book for me, please.
- Why do you think I would enjoy this book?
- Talk to me about how this book reminded you of other books or movies.
Of course, you may need to press a bit. If they didn’t like the book, ask them why. In other words, try to avoid “yes” or “no” questions, because those don’t really facilitate any sort of analytical response. You can’t gauge comprehension with a “yes” or a “no.”
Oops, one more thing: practice what you preach. Read a book along their side. You know this. Kids can sniff out a rat faster than anyone. If you tell them reading is important, but you’re not willing to do it yourself, they are going to think you’re full of hufflepuff. What’s that? You’re saying, “But, Scott, I don’t like to read!” Remember all that stuff I said about high interest reading material? Suck it up and apply it to yourself. Heck, you might even enjoy it!
Okay, for real this time, I’m almost done. If your child starts reading a book, and they don’t like it, let them put it down. That book is not attached to a detonator that will blow up the house if left unfinished. In the real world, people don’t finish books that they don’t like. Most of us don’t expect to take a test or write a paper over our bedtime reading material. Don’t freak the kid out about finishing every book they pick up–that’s the teacher’s job. (I’m joking … mostly.) Give them the freedom to pick up books and put them down as they please. Let them choose their own material (within reason). Let this experience be … <gasp!> … FUN!
Thanks for reading. (Man, that pun was totally unintended, but I love it. I’m keeping it in there. That’s the benefit of not having an editor.)
(Did you enjoy this article? Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)