Ocean City Elementary School, Ocean City, MDREALITY CHECK:Are you aware that kids can lose upward of three months’ worth of reading progress during summer break?

The infamous “summer reading slump” is well documented and shows that learning declines in most kids during these lazy, crazy days, but especially so in reading.

Kent State education professor, Timothy Rasinski, points out that this can mean a loss in a child’s reading achievement of almost one-and-a-half years through sixth grade!

But don’t despair. The reverse is also possible. Reading just a few books before school starts can save kids from a summer reading loss. Studies also show that parents can play a crucial role in curbing that drop, particularly on older kids’ reading attitudes and behaviors.

9 Ways to Help Kids Beat the Summer Reading Slump

Here are nine parenting solutions I shared on the TODAY show to get kids reading, beat the dreaded summer reading slump, and hopefully even rekindle that great love of the printed page.

1. Let them pick. A study by Scholastic found that 89% of kids say their favorite books are the ones that they pick out. Kids also say a big reason they don’t read is that they don’t like what we selected for them. So get your child involved in the selection.

If your child has difficulties finding the right book, talk to a children’s librarian, check into a resource on great books kids like to read, or ask other kids for book ideas.

You might also get yourself a copy of Jim Trelease’s Read-Aloud Handbook – a fabulous treasury of books that kids enjoy.

Here are a few other great resources:

  • What to Read When: The Books and Stories to Read with Your Child–And the Best Times to Read Them
  • Pam Allyn’s Best Books for Boys: How to Engage Boys in Reading in Ways That Will Change Their Lives
  • Reading Together: Everything You Need to Know to Raise a Child Who Loves to Read

2. Find the right level. The big trick is finding reading material appropriate to your child’s reading level–not too high and not too low. Check your child’s last report card or reading achievement scores for his or her “Reading Level.” It may give you a clue as to what is appropriate reading material for your kid. The back of many children’s books will list the reading level. RL 2.1 would indicate: “Second grade, first month.”

3. Think outside the book. Don’t be too picky as to what your kid reads: cereal boxes, cartoons, the Sports page, baseball cards, and graphic novels (meaning illustrated, not salacious) are fine. Find what piques your kid’s interest. What are his hobbies? What are other kids reading? Remember, the literary merit is trivial–getting your kid to feel comfortable with reading is what matters.

4. Set aside time to read. Kids say the biggest reason they don’t read for fun is there just isn’t enough time, so carve out a few minutes a day.

Hint: Eliminating just one TV show or activity will free up 30 minutes a week to read. Set aside a time where everyone reads and make it a family routine. Encourage your older kid to read to a younger sibling.

5. Make reading material available. Be sure reading material is easily accessible. Stash books in backpacks, bathrooms, cars or on the dining table for those “just-in-case” lulls. Or try this sure-fire tip: Give your kid the option of doing the dishes or reading a book. I’m betting on the book.

6. Start a summer book club. Find other kids your child can read with. Or join up with a few parents to start your own kid-parent book club. Suggest the kids pick from their required school reading list (check the bottom of your kid’s backpack) or allow them to choose their own. Read together!

7. Become movie critics. Read a book, and then watch the movie together. Harry Potter, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or Hatchet are a few favorites. Then become movie critics and debate if the book or movie was better. (Also fun to do with other kids!)

8. Read out loud. Around the age of eight is when studies say kids stop reading for enjoyment. It’s also the age we usually stop reading aloud to our kids. So find one book to read out loud this summer. Reading out loud increases comprehension, vocabulary, imagination and attention, but also creates fond family memories. Also consider listening to books on tape during long car rides (which is a great way to boost comprehension and auditory processing skills). Make sure to keep it fun and set the listening time to your child’s attention span.

9. Read together. Dig through the bottom of your kids’ backpacks for their school required reading list. Then get two copies of each requirement: one for you and the other for your kid. You can each read the book alone, but it’s also a great way to open up a dialogue with your child about a great book. J.K. Rowling proved that kids do read, but it certainly didn’t hurt that many parents and kids read the series together.

Studies show the more books in your home, the greater the chance your kid will become a reader (as well as obtain higher math, science, civics, and history scores). So…

  • Dig out your library card.
  • Go to library sales or book fairs.
  • Stop at garage sales.
  • Subscribe your kid to a magazine.
  • Set up a book exchange with the neighbors.

You don’t have to break the bank, but do have reading material available.  And make sure to carve out time so your child – and you – reads and reads and reads!

Tip: Both parents and kids say a big part of the problem is trouble finding enjoyable books. So treat yourself to one great source that lists kids’ top reading choices.

Here are a few other parenting resource favorites:

How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell

Best Books for Kids Who (Think They) Hate to Read by Laura Backes

Great Books for Boys or Great Books for Girls by Kathleen Odean

The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Shireen Dodson

The Kids’ Book Club Book by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp

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