By Carol Montrose, for The Children’s Book Review
Published: August 5, 2010
As a kid, the one time of year you look most forward to (aside from Christmas and your own birthday) is summer vacation. Slip-N-Slides, staying up late, family vacations, and the best, time away from school. As the days begin to shorten and the leaves begin to fall, the summer, before you know it, comes to a halting end. Then the drudge sets in as you prepare for the dreaded “first day,” and the only fun left is shopping for school supplies, putting together your own personalized three-ring binder with pencil pouch, and knowing you’ll get to see all your school friends again. But what can you, as a parent, do to insure that your children are more than ready and prepared for their return to academia? How can you motivate your children to read during summer vacation, that time in which they want nothing to do with books and school?
With the recent flux and fad of book-based, kid-friendly movies, why not make a game out of upcoming, popular summer and fall blockbusters? Movies like Harry Potter and the Twilight series have already propelled kids into challenging themselves with the 500 page novellas. Why not tap into that? Encourage your children to read the books before you allow them to watch the movies, suggesting (which is more often true than not) that the books are far more entertaining and imaginative than the movies could ever be. And movies such as Avatar, The Last Airbender lend themselves very well to the graphic-novel genre; albeit, graphic novels are not the sort of books they’ll be reading in school, they still provide your children with enough text to read to keep their minds stimulated and challenge their reading comprehension.
Why not also turn reading into a game, which, if they win, garners them a reward? Offer to take them out to their favorite local eatery, ice cream shop, or theme park, if they can finish any book they choose to read fun. And that’s the key: making reading fun. These aren’t bribes, they are incentives. Extra privileges for those children who choose to take the extra time to nurture their intellect. Anything that’s a chore, or seems like homework, your child will not, willingly, want to do. But if you walk them into the book store and allow them to choose any book they wish, reading will begin to seem like more of an extra-curricular activity than an assignment. And the more they begin to enjoy reading, the more emotionally and psychologically ready they will feel upon reaching that daunting “first day” of school.
Why not form a book club with your children? Let them to choose a book they’re interested in, and read it along with them. This way, it’s not only “monkey see, monkey do,” allowing you to positively reinforce reading as an important mental exercise, but you can also monitor their reading comprehension. Discussing the book with them as you both read through it will help foster your child’s reading comprehension and will facilitate a stronger, and more open, bond between you and your child.