It’s officially summertime and though ideal days for your child are likely filled with bare feet, friends, and sunshine, you might find yourself wondering how to sneak in some covert educational activity to combat that pesky potential learning loss. Or, you might be hoping to transform that reluctant reader before the new school year.
Whatever your goal, here are five simple strategies you can easily incorporate into your summer routine to help a love of reading flourish.
Make Books Available
The number one way to get your child to pick up a book? Make one available! We all know the power and pull of a toy that is visible versus a toy that has been hidden away (and therefore long forgotten). But often, we forget that—to a child’s eye and mind—the allure of a book is often in its proximity. Leave books out the way you would toys—display them on bedside tables and playroom shelves. Make sure there is a colorful, appealing variety, ideally a mixture of old favorites and new adventures.
No, you do not have to have a home library or even a full, designated shelf, nor do you need to go on a book-buying spree.
Library books work just as well, and a handful of options out in the open are far more likely to actually be picked up and read than myriad tomes tucked away on a shelf. If your family lives the tablet life, simply put reading apps front and center. There are plenty of no-cost, low-cost, and interactive digital options available through online retailers and local libraries.
Let Them Love it Well
Though this tip may rankle some at first (particularly any bibliophiles or book-hoarders), it’s an important one to remember when your goal is to encourage your child to and not inadvertently discourage them from reading . . . let them handle the book.
Yes! Let them open it at the breakfast table with sticky-jam-fingers on the pages. Let them drag it outside to lay in the grass or scramble with it up to that treehouse. Let them remove the jacket and dog-ear the pages and leave it open spine-up on the coffee table.
In short, let your child use the book for its intended purpose: enjoyment. Sure, those hardcovers and picture books can be expensive, and no one wants to be that parent returning the peanut butter-crusted, dog-chewed library book. But with some direction and practice, most children are willing and able to understand and adhere to the concept of respecting our things well enough, and the payoff of a broken spine is so much greater than the cost of a few dirty smears.
Choose Bookish Destinations
During these long dog days, the pool, park, and ice-cream parlor beckon, and you must certainly heed the call. However, between mornings on the swings, afternoons spent at splash pads, and evenings licking drips from sugar cones, setting you and your child’s sights on a bookish destination can begin to teach them that places where books and reading are a priority are also places for summertime fun.
Of course, the options largely depend on what is geographically available to you, but with some simple sleuthing, you will likely find more options than expected. Indie and second-hand shops, and big-box bookstores are all good and obvious choices. Gas stations and drug stores can also be mini storehouses of cheap paperback gems. Now, many coffee shops and cafes also stock a highly curated selection. (A book and a pastry? Win-win!) Take some time to explore the possibilities near you.
Naturally, your local library should be a go-to, but do you also know the location of local, free, little libraries? You can scout these out by taking a drive, asking neighborhood groups online, or searching the Free Little Library World Map.
Many places also offer schedules and programming throughout the summer: activities, read-alongs, and story hours for all ages to attend. Ask a librarian or bookseller about available options, and they’ll likely be happy to share. The key is to make getting books an outing to look forward to.
Use Reading to Anchor Your Days
While the summertime un-schedule likely reigns (and rightly so), a regular period of reading together can provide rhythm and structure. It also encourages consistency, setting up the expectation that reading is just something you do, like brushing your teeth.
This doesn’t have to mean blocking whole hours out of your busy day and can really mean 10 minutes with a board book or 30 minutes and a few choruses of “just one more chapter.” Pick a quiet time in the mornings, after naps, or before bedtime when things are calm and moods are mellow. Read out loud, together. Read separately in silence. Whatever works best for you.
Lead by Example
Finally, one of the most effective yet overlooked ways to get your child to read more this summer: lead by example. As you well know, your little munchkin picks up on nearly everything you do, and as your mini-me continues to grow, they continue to watch you like a hawk (even though they may pretend otherwise). So consider your own reading habits and what they demonstrate to your child.
During downtime are you more likely to kick back with a good book or (let’s be honest) pull out your phone and start scrolling? Time to practice what you preach! Pick up a book and watch your child soon follow suit.