If most of my tips for promoting summer reading seem like too much for your summer lifestyle, the single most important reading activity that I could encourage you to do with your child this summer is to read aloud. While reading aloud is certainly important all year long, it is especially valuable during the summer, when kids are at risk of experiencing the “summer slide” in reading skills. Reading aloud affects so many aspects of academic development, including every literacy outcome (e.g., reading fluency, motivation, vocabulary, world knowledge, and comprehension) and academic achievement in other content areas such as math, science, and writing. Research shows that this is true not just for preschoolers and beginning readers but also for older, independent and highly competent readers. Reading aloud also nurtures the creation of lifelong readers — kids who read beyond the requirements of school, for pleasure and for information, who believe that reading is an enriching and integral part of their life. SO, if your focus this summer has been to get your kids to read on their own, this is a reminder to put just as much emphasis on making sure that you read aloud to them. Reading aloud to your kids most definitely counts in their tallies of their reading this summer (for those documenting their reading as part of a summer reading challenge)!
Keep in mind that you should read aloud:
- to competent, older readers in upper elementary grades and well beyond (not just younger, emerging readers).
- all kinds of texts, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, newspaper articles, and even the internet.
- picture books, which continue to be valuable beyond the primary grades. So parents, please don’t believe that your kids outgrow them! For older listeners, choose picture books with sophisticated vocabulary and rich themes that prompt critical thinking about the text.
- chapter books, which can be read aloud to 4-6 year olds (not just older kids) as long as appropriate texts are chosen (i.e., short texts with straightforward plots, such as Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and Patrick Catling’s The Chocolate Touch). For younger kids, chapter books should also be read on a day-to-day basis in order to maintain interest in the story.
In Our Family… Reading aloud is a top priority, all year long –above kids’ independent reading, even above homework most of the time. It’s not connected to schoolwork, or age, and it’s as much of a given as bathing or brushing our teeth. The kids know that we will always have “family read aloud time”, not matter how terrific a reader they are. Also, we take turns choosing the read-aloud book, rotating among the kids and us parents. Since adults are in on the rotation, we can ensure a high-quality and diverse reading diet while also honoring the importance of kids’ choice (which occurs when it is their turn during family read alouds and all of the time during their independent reading).
If reading aloud doesn’t happen much in your family, it can be helpful to come up with a ritualized time and/or place for summer reading aloud to occur (see Tip #7 for the importance of rituals around reading). A specific “read aloud basket” full of books next in line for reading aloud can also help to generate read-aloud momentum.