So your hypothetical kid, Emily, just gets home for the first day of summer vacation. She throws her book bag into the closet, where it will remain for the next three months. Tennis shoes fly off her feet, and eager hands tear open a fresh bag of chips from the pantry. Once properly equipped, her next target is the most comfortable spot she can find on the couch.
After settling in, one hand gropes for chips while the other goes past the remote, Xbox controller, and iPad to land on The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Eagerly, Emily picks up the book, ready to begin her quest with Mare to see if her magical powers will be her salvation or her downfall.
This may sound like a dream scenario, but it doesn’t have to be. As teachers and parents, we can sometimes make reading seem more like an item to be ticked off a to-do list rather than the joyful experience it should be. Instead, we should help students learn new habits that turn reading from a chore into a delightful pastime.
How? Here’s a few tips that should help you get students reading this summer:
Let the student dictate the curriculum (a bit)
Huckleberry Finn, Red Badge of Courage, and The Grapes of Wrath all have their place. They are important literary works that have formed the core of great literature for years.
However, books like these are also studied in school nine months out of the year. They come with tests, homework, and deadlines. In short, if it belongs in school, kids don’t want to read it during their summer break. Instead, get your kids reading what they want first, then work in the essentials and summer reading lists.
The trick is to figure out what your kids are interested in and pick pertinent books that they don’t get a chance to read in school. Get kids reading about topics that excite them – sports, video games, coding, fashion, music, art – the subject doesn’t matter. There are a ton of great books out there that some might not consider “literature,” but they can still help your student find a new appreciation for a given topic. Who knows, they may even grow to love reading because you’re helping them find things that they might actually want to read.
Change will do you (and your kids) good
We live in a visual world where more than just words are used to communicate. If students are having trouble keeping a book open, change it up with a magazine, comic book, or guide. The pictures, drawings, colors, and different writing styles may provide the extra stimulation they need keep them focused and reading to the end. At that point you can slowly integrate other reading materials or books based on what they like.
If you have a student that’s a music fan or auditory learner, maybe they’d appreciate audiobooks. There are millions of them available, and any one of them could help jumpstart a love of reading. In fact, OverDrive’s Sync program is a fantastic tool that offers new audiobooks every week for free. Remember, the idea is to make the reading experience as accessible as possible and explore all the options.
Up your game
Once you have a nice mix of reading materials with different formats, topics, and goals (required, pleasure, interest, etc.), start offering rewards.
For example, let’s say you decide the goal for Emily, your 15 year old daughter, is to read “The Fault in Our Stars,” three issues of “Seventeen,” and finish “As I Lay Dying” by the end of the month. If she does it, you’ll take her and a friend to the movies. If that’s too aggressive, maybe the goal is to finish the audiobook version of “As I Lay Dying” within two weeks. The reward: the latest Mumford & Sons album.
Think outside the box and test new ideas until you find something that works for your student. Heck, there are even programs out there that you can enroll students in so you don’t have to handle the rewards on your own. Anyone remember “Book it,” for example? It still exists!
The summer provides a great opportunity to explore new ideas and concepts that students might not get in school. Make reading a fun experience for them by leading them to where they want to go. You may be surprised at how far they get in three months!