Make Summer Reading Fun for the Whole Family
by Natalie Gillespie
As a good mom or dad, you know your kids should be reading during their summer break, but how can you get them to do it when tablets and television seem so much more enticing? What should you choose as a family to read, and how can you get kids of different ages all on the same page?
Here are some tried-and-true tips from a mom of nine (yes, nine!) to make summer reading a page-turner for everyone:
State Your Expectations Clearly
Kids function best when they know exactly what expectations to meet. Decide how much time you want them to spend reading, and hold a family meeting to discuss. Allow kids to have input, but know your limits before the negotiations begin. For example, if I want my kids to read for at least 30 minutes before bedtime, I might suggest 45 minutes or an hour so there is some room for them to “bargain.”
You may want to create an “electronics exchange” system as well. For each hour of reading, a child may earn 15 or 30 minutes of electronics time (TV, video games, tablets). Create a chart or checkboxes that you can initial each time your child is ready to “redeem” completed reading time for electronics. Make sure they have timers or can set a timer on a kitchen appliance or stopwatch to help them learn to keep track of their time. This timed exchange system can also work for completed books. For example, one completed chapter book of 100 pages or more might be exchanged for one hour of electronics time.
Put reading and their relationship with God first by requiring your kids to spend time in God’s Word and prayer each morning before the day’s activities begin. After my children dress, brush teeth, eat breakfast and straighten their rooms, they must spend at least 15 minutes reading their Bibles and praying before they can play.
Change the Scenery
Kids don’t need to be in one particular spot to read. Let them know they can read in the backyard, on the porch, or even in a tree (if you have one that’s a safe height). Set up a pup tent in the yard (or in the living room) and fill it with blankets and pillows to create a reading room. Or clean out a small closet or cozy corner that kids can pile with pillow for a comfy reading place.
Also, allow them freedom to move while they read, as long as you quiz them from time to time to make sure they are comprehending what they read. I have one daughter who cannot sit still and often hangs upside down over the side of the couch while she is reading. As long as she is following the story and understanding her books, it doesn’t matter to me what position she is in. If you have multiple kids, be aware that some will enjoy reading with music playing or in noise-filled environments, while others need quiet. Give them opportunities to find spaces where they can focus best.
Take books and a picnic to the park, a field, or out by a lake. Take breaks to go on nature walks and admire God’s creation. You can also sit and read at your local library. Allow your children to get their own library cards, and set up a specific place in your home like a basket by the front door or a drawer where library books should be stored so they can be returned in good shape and on time.
Create Family Fun Times
Choose several books or a series of books to read out loud as a family this summer. Look at the latest Christian books at your local retailer and allow your children to choose ones that look good to them, stock up at the library, and take a look at some classics like the “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and the “Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis. Reading out loud captures everyone’s imagination and allows the whole family to participate in talking about the stories.
If you have little ones, choose some picture books and allow older children to read to younger ones. To engage older readers, look up facts about the author, talk about where the story is set and find it on the globe (The classic children’s book, The Story of Ping, is set in China.), or come up with a craft or art project everyone can do that illustrates some part of the story.
Audiobooks can be a great choice for road trips or even errands around town. Our family got to know the classic character Ramona and contemporary favorite Judy Moody by listening to books in the car.
Offer Rewards and Look for Freebies
Some libraries, bookstores and restaurant chains offer reading programs with rewards for kids who read. Our library partnered with our local professional baseball team to offer free tickets to kids who read a certain number of books over the summer. Pizza Hut offers a Book-It program that local public, private and homeschoolers can participate in during the school year for free personal pizzas, and some bookstores offer free books or other rewards to kids who read during the summer. Be on the lookout for book clubs, summer reading programs and other “freebies” in your area as an added incentive to get your kids excited about their reading adventures.
You can also offer your own rewards for reading, from extra allowance money for books or number of pages read to small “treasures” from a treasure box or drawer that you keep stocked with small toys, games, journals, balls, nail polish, or other fun items.
By setting the tone that reading is an adventure and offering ways to make it fun and rewarding as a family, summer reading can be a blast!
Natalie Gillespie is the mom of nine kids and “Gravy” to five grandkids. Natalie’s grandmother and Sesame Street taught her to read by the age of three, and she hasn’t stopped since. When she is not curled up with a book, she is writing one like the kids’ book Believing in Narnia or chauffeuring kids and grandkids to their next activity. You can reach her at email@example.com.
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