Every summer the kids and I trek to our local library to sign up for our summer reading program. It’s been a great incentive to keep the kids reading all summer long. Over the years we’ve earned books, coupons to our favorite places to eat, games, CD’s and other small prizes.
For the kids it’s a way to be rewarded for keeping up on their reading during a time when most kids will toss aside the books in exchange for vacations, trips to the pool, and other activities. For me, it’s a way to keep them learning. Here are some tips to making your own personalized summer reading program.
Design it to your family’s schedule – For us, we do summer sports, day trips to my dad’s house, and this year, we’ll be adding day camp so it’s going to be a busy summer! Your summer reading program shouldn’t feel like work. Set up a time during the week or in the evening when it’s “down time”. Use that time to encourage everyone to get their reading in. Ask your kids when they’d prefer to have “down time” and try to adhere to that schedule.
Make a reading list – If your child likes certain genres (the boys are fantasy and sci-fi buffs), then help them create a list of books that they can check off as they read through the list. My kids will often hear of a book and then forget the title by the time we make a trip to the library. If you create a list that includes titles and authors, the kids can then request the books on their own and have continuous books available throughout the summer. This is also a great way to keep tracks of books that are a part of a series (such as Harry Potter or Series of Unfortunate Events).
Even the newspaper counts – Don’t limit your kids to just reading books. Magazines are filled with informative and fun articles. Comic books bring stories to life through detailed pictures and newspapers put kids in touch with both the world around them and in their own backyard. By not limiting your children in what they can read, you’re giving them the freedom to explore other interests and topics and helping them find ways to make reading more enjoyable.
Build a reward system – Much like the libraries use, a reward system can be a great incentive to keep up on reading. Create a chart with each child’s name and record either the number of books they’ve read or the number of hours they’ve spent reading. For younger children (early readers and even toddlers) you can shorten that time down to minutes. If you’re reading to them, it still counts.
Once you have a chart created, work together as a family to come up with the rewards they’d like; maybe a sweet treat, a new book, or a coupon for special time with mom and dad alone. Be imaginative but set limits as to what you feel is an acceptable reward. If a reward option is not in your budget, say so but offer an alternative.
You’ll find that as your kids get into your summer reading program, they may keep track of one another’s reading time as well or compete for who can read more books. Don’t forget to be a part of the summer reading program you’ve created! This is your chance for some guilty chick-lit reading or to dive into the next murder mystery that just made the best seller list.