As the school year draws to a close my mind turns to my kids’ summer vacation. Summer conjures up a variety of things for me: summer camp, pool, ice cream, road trips, camping, hiking, ice cream truck, swimming, baseball, barbeques, ice cream, sprinklers, corn on the cob, popsicles and reading. (Did I mention ice cream?)
I think about reading because research has shown that kids can lose ground in their reading ability over the summer months. In fact, two-thirds of the academic achievement gap in reading and language found among high school students has been explained through the learning loss that occurs during the summer months of the primary school years. (Entwisle, D., Alexander, K., & Olson, L. 2000. “Summer Learning and Home Environment.”)
Reading & Writing: Must-Do Activities
Kids make such big strides during the school year that it seems like such a waste to allow their learning to stop—or worse, backslide over the summer. In our house we’ve made reading and writing over the summer must-do activities. Although I believe in the value of math, science, art, and music just as much as reading and writing, you can’t perform any of those subjects (let alone succeed in life) without solid reading and writing skills. How many times have you received an email and wondered, “Where did that person learn how to write?!”
Library Reading Programs are Key.
A cornerstone in keeping my kids motivated to read and write during the summer has been the summer reading programs offered by our local library. When they were in their early elementary years (Pre-K to 3rd grade) the prizes and coupons offered by the College Hill Library summer reading program were enough motivation for them. And they got to practice their writing by completing the worksheets to list the books they read.
You Say Bribes. I Say Rewards.
As my kids have gotten older, we’ve had to get more creative with the rewards (bribes?) for reading. If they read three books and write three book reports, their reward is to go to one of their favorite places, such as Dave & Busters, for one of their favorite activities—video games. Whatever it takes, I say!
Volunteering: The Next Phase
As we enter middle school I feel we’re moving into yet another phase with their summer reading and writing. My oldest will be volunteering with the Library’s summer reading program. There’s a nice symmetry to that. We can give back to the program that we’ve benefited from for so many years, and he can be on the other side of the table helping the younger kids select their ‘prize’ each week. And it keeps him busy for a few hours each week!
As an ulterior mom motive, I hope he’ll witness the young kids’ excitement at receiving rewards for their reading accomplishments. And just maybe that will help to fuel his own love for reading. Too much to hope for? Maybe. I think we’ll still need the promise of something fun to keep them reading this summer, but I’m hopeful all these rewards are leading to a love of reading and writing in the long run.
How do you motivate kids to keep reading over the summer?