By Susan Stiffelman
Author of Parenting Without Power Struggles
Once upon a time, books were among a child’s favorite companions. A book could carry a child to another place in time, transport him to faraway lands, or inspire her to dream bigger dreams. For many youngsters today, books have become a thing of the past. Whether they’re focused on electronic devices, over-scheduled with activities, or resisting because creating images in ones mind is harder than watching TV, the decline in reading has significant implications on a child’s ability to become a passionate lifetime learner.
As summer approaches, the possibility of helping your child become an avid reader becomes even more challenging; without a teacher assigning nightly reading, many children’s skills fall behind, encouraging them to fall into a “summer slide.” In 2009, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described summer learning loss as “devastating.” But if parents step in, this setback can be avoided. Here are some tips for ways to promote summer reading in your household:
—Establish a reading ritual, when everyone in the family shuts down their devices, turns away from their screens, and settles into a cozy chair or piles together on the bed for a 20 minute reading fest. Some families add lemonade or the scent of a fragrant candle to make reading time extra special.
—Start a summer reading book club with a few of your child’s friends and their parents, and offer three or four age appropriate books for them to read and discuss. By making reading a social experience—complete with yummy snacks at your club meetings—you’ll help your children associate reading with something fun to do with friends.
—Model reading by letting your kids see you curled up with a good book (or e-reader.) Our children take their cues about how to spend their leisure time based on what they see us doing; rather than lecturing them on the importance of summer reading, show them the behavior you want to see in them.
—Give your youngster a wide selection of books, and encourage him to choose those that appeal to him, rather than ones that you decide he should read. The more he feels he’s reading something that he picked, the more likely he’ll be to actually read it.
—Some children enjoy keeping track of the books they read over the summer, setting a goal to read a certain number and seeing if they can meet—or surpass it. Just be careful not to associate summer reading with book reports or school work; the more reading is about pleasure rather than another requirement they have to fulfill, the less you’ll resistance you’ll encounter.
In my book Parenting Without Power Struggles, I talk about the fact that we aren’t raising children; we’re raising adults. By making summer reading a priority, you’ll help your children move into adulthood equipped with the ability to travel into worlds of ideas, imagination and far off places because a wonderful book took them there.
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