Raising Summer Readers Tip #54: Reflect with your kids on their summer reading life, and talk about how you all might do it differently next summer!

Unknown-3This can be done during kids last week of summer, or even after the kids have been back in school for a few days. But don’t wait too long! Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Did you meet your beginning of summer reading goals? If kids were documenting their reading, actually take a look at the evidence (e.g., logs, scrapbooks, bucket lists, online reviews) so that kids can consider how they did. Make sure kids are aware of whether or not they met their goals, and if not, talk about what got in the way and how things might be tweaked for next summer.
  • What was your favorite book this summer? What kind of books/texts did you read mostly? Is there a type of text or genre that you might give more attention to next summer?
  • Are there any books or types of books on your summer reading list that you didn’t get to? What are they? Discuss whether you would like to try to read them once school starts, or hold on to them for the next break from school.
  • What did you like about reading this summer? Discuss favorite reading-related activities and experiences from the summer, and even decide on what experiences the family might want to make annual summer reading traditions. In our family, this reflecting has resulted in numerous summer reading and writing rituals, including the use of our large wall in the playroom to document the family’s summer reading in a fun way; writing vacation books for at least one summer vacation; and having one “all ice cream day” with related reading and writing about ice cream. These discussions help to create the expectation and the anticipation of the reading rituals for the following summer…which goes a long way!
  • Talk about how avid adult readers often write reviews for books they feel strongly about, and ask your kids whether they want to write about their favorite reads of the summer. This might be an entry in a summer or daily journal, or, for  audience and more authenticity, kids can write “real” reviews on Amazon.com, Goodreads.com, or DOGObooks.com.
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Upon reflecting on our Summer Reading Timeline: The kids were proud that they achieved expert reading teacher Donalyn Miller’s Book-a-Day challenge…though they decided that the daily documentation was too tedious. (Us parents — the top 2 lines– didn’t do quite as well!) This led to some talk about what to do instead next summer. No decisions yet, but this year’s reflecting has already started some momentum for next summer’s planning…

The key is to exit summer with some sort of attention to the reading that occurred…it was important enough to keep reading, and it’s important enough to reflect on at the end.  Talking about summer reading, and what it’s like to be a “summer reader”, helps to build awareness of the attitudes and habits of lifelong readers — readers who read beacuse they want to, when they want to, where they want to, what they want to, who think about what they read. Such readers learn to read for the sake of reading, not because of daily reading requirements or tests or book reports or points. And, regardless of whether or not you as parents have done substantial summer reading yourself, be an equal participant in the discussion, sharing your own reflections and insights about your own summer reading life. Share things like, “I love how I got so much reading in at the beach this summer” or “This summer I had the chance to discover the author (insert author name) whom I’d never heard of before; that’s what I love about summer, there’s some more time to read and find new interests.” Sharing thoughts such as these paves the way for kids’ own reflections, making them more likely to chime in too.

In addition to some dialogue about summer reading, kids might enjoy a more formal celebration of all the reading that was done. Some schools and public libraries host parties for kids who participate in their summer reading program. Or, find a way to celebrate in your own way among family and/or friends. This might be a trip to your local bookstore so kids can select some new books as they head into the school year. Instead, you might come up with a special experience related to a favorite summer read, such as visiting gorillas at the zoo for The One and Only Ivan, going to a candy or fudge store if kids read and loved Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, going to/watching a movie based on the book, or visiting a magic shop for kids who discovered Harry Potter over the summer (I just learned about Whimsic Alley, a Harry Potter themed magic shop in L.A.). Another way to celebrate is to host an end-of-summer reading party — which might involve the swapping of favorite summer reads, dressing up as favorite characters from a book read over the summer, or kids coming with a prepared “favorite summer read” page (maybe with review and illustration) to contribute to a “Summer Reads Recommendation Book” (similar to what adults do at recipe parties). What makes all of these celebrations of summer reading great is that they all reward kids with the activity (book-related experiences) that we are trying to promote (reading). Avoid other kinds of rewards if you can — they tend to cheapen reading by sending the wrong message — namely that kids need to be “paid” for their reading because it’s not inherently valuable. End of summer reading celebrations that kids eagerly anticipate also make for great annual rituals!

To conclude this “Raising Summer Readers” series, my bottom-line hope for parents is that they can find a way to help their kids approach reading as a way of life and summer reading as a way of summer life…not as an add-on to be fit in but as an integral and joyful part of summer. It amazes me how many well-intentioned parents say that they their kids’ summer reading is not a priority because they believe that their kids need a break from the requirements of school. This is concerning from a “summer slide” perspective and the cumulative consequences of little summer reading over multiple years, but it is even more concerning from a raising lifelong readers perspective. If kids don’t receive support to develop the habits of lifelong readers during the summer — during the window of greatest opportunity, when they are free from the requirements of school — kids are unlikely to learn that reading is more than just a “schooltime” thing. Which tends to have tremendous consequences, academically and professionally, socially and societally. Especially in our information age, where reading well and critically is vital to meaningful engagement in our world.

As summer comes to an end, if someone were to ask your child, “What were your favorite parts about this summer?”…Will your child include “read” or “listen to my mom/dad read” in her list of favorite summer activities? If yes, you have a lifelong reader in the making!

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