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Stop the Summer Setback

“Summer setback” is the phenomenon of declining academic achievement during summer recess. Some children may lose as much as one month of academic achievement with regard to reading skills! But a 2004 study showed that the effects of four or five books over the summer were enough to prevent a decline in reading achievement. Parents can create literacy-rich environments that motivate readers with choice, independence, and engaging activities. The post below provides lots of ways to encourage reading in enjoyable, authentic ways - no workbooks, no reading logs, and no bribery!

Use car time as book time. On long trips we are eager to hand over an iPad, but try to see road trips as the perfect time for literacy activities! Find your car’s appropriate technology and borrow a digital book – through Audible or the Rye Free Reading Room. Be sure to consider the duration of the audiobook - your preschoolers will enjoy listening to the Froggy series, while your upper elementary readers will love The Penderwicks or Charlie Bone. Not only are these books enjoyable, but they actually build students’ oral reading comprehension! Even your older kids can tackle their dreaded school-assigned books with audiobooks.

Avoid bribery! While it is tempting to say, “If you read every day for 20 minutes, I’ll get you a Playstation”, decades of research shows that these tactics actually lower kids’ motivation to read! By offering tangible prizes, we send the message that kids should be rewarded for reading! If you must resort to bribery, have the ‘reward’ be something literacy-related: extra storytime at night, a subscription to a kid’s magazine, or a voucher to choose a book of choice

Allow digital reading to count as reading. Need a break from the kids? I sure do some days! Rather than plopping them in front of the TV, give them screen time at They select from Hollywood actors, who read aloud to your kid!

Challenge your kids to read a variety of text genres! If you think about the reading that we – as proficient adults – do on a daily basis, we read from a variety of texts – how to guides, mysteries, expository text like in magazines and newspapers, op-eds, letters, etc. All of these genres offer different opportunities and different challenges. Our students need exposure to lots of different genres – you can push your kids out of their comfort zones with a friendly push! I like starting the summer with a “Reader’s Wheel” – I’ve shared one that I found on Google Images. Can your kids read a book from each section over the summer? Modify the wheel based on your child’s age and reading habits.

Do not limit your child to texts that are on their grade level (or on their Guided Reading level)! It’s okay for a Level J reader to read something above that level. Years of research show that kids are more motivated to read books that they have chosen on their own. When kids are limited to selecting books at their level, we actually detract from their motivation to read! All readers have a range of reading levels, rather than merely one. When readers have strong background knowledge and vocabulary, they can read books that we often think are ‘too difficult’. Allow kids to take risks in the books they choose and their levels!

Go on literary field trips this summer! The summer is the perfect time to explore the myriad of literary-based locations in your area. Take your kids to actual book stores (remember them?!) Explore some of the fabulous public libraries outside of our town. Or plan a book-based adventure; read a book about the ocean before your visit to the beach, read a book about soccer before watching the World Cup, read a book about insects before catching fireflies in the evening.

Choose books that relate to your summer plans! Going camping? Laugh along with A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee! Playing tennis? Read Cam Jansen and the Tennis Trophy

Mystery. Have a swimmer? Read Michael Phelps’ How to Train With A T. Rex and Win 8 Gold Medals. As you link books to your activities, you demonstrate that books hold real-life authentic purposes.

Form a parent-kid book club. Kids take interest in activities that interest you, so choose some books to read together. When you transform reading from a solitary activity to a social one, kids become engaged and motivated. Make your book club meetings special – print

There are a ton of children’s books translated into film version! For young readers, you might choose an easy book like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day or The Lorax. Upper elementary readers will laugh along with Captain Underpants and Ramona and Beezus. For older readers, you might choose the more substantive chapter books like The Diary of the Wimpy Kid or Holes. Email me for a comprehensive list of children’s books adapted into films!

Make the library your second home! All libraries have so many offerings, from workshops to science clubs to summer reading programs. Designate a set time each week that is your library time, and treat it as if it is a date that you can’t miss! Schedule your library visits when activities occur, use it as a meet up location for friends, and let children loose. There’s no better way to spend a cool afternoon!

And obvious but important, surround them with books! Do you know Literati? Books delivered to your child’s home or summer camp!

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