Without the structure of schooltime reading and the momentum provided by school reading requirements, kids are more likely during the summer to take longer breaks in between books. These lulls can last days or longer and greatly affect the amount of summer reading that occurs. Parents can take a proactive role in ensuring that their child’s reading momentum is maintained in between books. Here are six suggestions:
- Talk with your child frequently about his/her “next reads”. Before your child finishes reading his/her current book (i.e., by the halfway point), ask what book he/she plans to read next. If your child has no specific books in mind, discuss possibilities together. Share your own plans for your next read as well, and model your planning and your enthusiasm (e.g., “I can’t wait until I finish this book and get to read…”).
- Encourage (and, if necessary, actually help to create) a “next reads” stack of books. In Tip #5 of my 2013 Summer Slide series, I mentioned the importance of access to books around the house. This takes that a step further by actually setting aside a stack of books in a special place that only includes books the child is eager to read next. This can be a stack of books on your child’s nightstand, or a specific “next reads” basket used only for that purpose. This stack should be separate from your home’s larger collection of books.
- Make sure that your child’s next reads stack is chunky, with at least 5-8 books in it. Revisit the titles in your child’s pile frequently, and remove/replace books for which enthusiasm has waned. If the stack is getting low, it is time for a trip to your home library, the public library, or a bookstore.
- If possible, try to encourage your child to include various types of books in their “next reads” stack (e.g., picture books, chapter books, comics, poetry, magazines, nonfiction, multiple genres). Include books that are within your child’s comfort zone, but also try to find books that they can get excited about that they don’t typically turn to (e.g., fantasy if the preference tends to be realistic fiction).
- Help your child add books to the stack that are linked together, for example that are written by the same author, that address the same topic or theme, or that are in a series. Linked books provide built-in momentum in between books and they also facilitate talk across books, which nurtures deep thinking about text.
- Try to work hard to help your child find books that he/she will love to read. When your child finds a book he/she loves, find similar books to add to their next read stack. (e.g., if they are loving Andrew Clements’ books, find a few more). This takes more effort on your part, but it can really pay off!
In our family... All three kids have “next reads” piles on their endtables. For the older kids, the piles consist largely of books within their comfort zone (girl characters and realistic fiction for my daughter, boy characters and fantasy/sci fi/nonfiction for my son), but for both we have found some new titles that add variety to their summer reading. My 5-year-old’s endtable consists of easy readers, picture books, and wordless picture books. He has never had a next read stack before, but having one seems to make him want to tackle it like his brother and sister are doing — and hence he’s wanting to “read” more.
Parents can make a tremendous difference when they create conditions that increase the likelihood that reading momentum is maintained, especially during the summer!