“Practice makes progress.” So said a Grade 5 class to me when I visited their school to promote the BC Summer Reading Club at the Vancouver Public Library. Never is this truer than when it comes to kids and learning to read. Educators and researchers have been lamenting the “summer slide” for decades and urging parents to encourage kids to read over the summer break from school. If you’re nervously thinking about your already overflowing plate, don’t worry. There are many ways to sprinkle in fun ways to read—some may already be part of your family’s life, and the joy and benefits will last a lifetime. Read on for five tips to make summer reading a success!
1. Let them lead
Nobody likes boring. When kids get to choose their own books, they are far more likely to actually read those books. Even if it seems like they are not challenging themselves or reading the “right” books, they are still making a lot of progress. So next time your kid cracks open their 428th Geronimo Stilton book or spends a month hiding behind a Minecraft Guide to Survival, pat them (and yourself) on the back for a job well done.
Audiobooks are fantastic. They can be shared with friends and family. They allow kids to hear stories and vocabulary that are beyond their reading level. They leave the hands and body free for fidgeting, doodling, bouncing and moving, which can help kids focus. Listening to audiobooks is also easier for those who struggle with attention or decoding words. If you need more reasons to check out an audiobook this summer, just imagine avoiding carsickness by keeping eyes off the page! So when you’re planning the next family road trip, download Apartment 13 by Kevin Sylvester and sit back and enjoy the ride together.
This tip seems counterintuitive because there is no reading involved. But sharing family and cultural stories has benefits that go beyond the ABCs. For kids, knowing who they are and where they came from is important for social-emotional learning. Stories that are passed down through generations instill family and cultural values, practices and teachings. Kids who feel secure in their place in the world and exposed to rich language are kids who are primed to be open to reading. If storytelling doesn’t come naturally for you at first, try picking up a copy of Silly and Sillier by Judy Sierra to read aloud or tell them a tale of your own free-range youth!
4. Go graphic
Nothing says summer like lounging in the grass with a pile of comic books spread around you. Fortunately for kids and adults alike, graphic novels are a treasure trove of interesting and unique words. Their shorter format and vivid imagery are great for kids who have trouble picturing a story in their minds. For kids who think reading is “not their thing,” they can often find a graphic novel similar to what they love to watch. If you think graphic novels are lacking in story quality, think again. Hope Larson’s glorious, graphic re-imagining of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is just one example of a fresh remake of favorites from your childhood.
5. Go to the library and join the Summer Reading Club
The final and most effective tip: outsource! It takes a village, and the library is part of that village. Libraries across the province are hosting the BC Summer Reading Club, which is an easy and fantastic way to get kids reading. As a gathering place with fun programs, author and artist talks and challenges all summer long, kids can meet other kids who love to read at their local library. That’s where they’ll find a wide selection of the latest and greatest books and staff will happily lend a helping hand to match readers with their next favourite books. Find out more at bcsrc.ca and visit a library near you to sign up for this free program. This year’s theme is “Journey Through Time” and it promises to be dino-mite!
For more reading tips, booklists and fun programs for kids, visit a Vancouver Public Library near you or find us online at vpl.ca/kids.