Kids tend not to read in the summertime. In school they are required to read, but when that structure falls away as the last dismissal bell tolls in the springtime, reading is so over for so many!
Few of us care about whether kids continue to be good at sidewalk chalk art or riding skateboards or playing games with their friends. We don’t have to care because kids care enough to do that all on their own.
Children get better at doing what they love to do. There’s an important lesson there.
Most of us adults care about kids’ reading achievement. Kids, on the other hand, don’t care much about that, especially in the summertime. So, because they don’t care, they just stop reading. Not only do they not improve. Their reading ability starts to decay.
Teachers and parents often figure that if we just nag kids enough, they’ll read and get better. To a limited extent, this works. But then, during breaks in the school schedule, kids quit reading and their skills erode. If, upon reflection, we realize that all we do is NAG them into books, a great many of our kids, especially those from a family with a low socioeconomic status, are probably doomed to mediocrity in reading achievement. Ouch.
So while the traditional type of nagging or bugging might be mildly effective in helping kids to read, here’s a different take on ways to NAG kids about their reading that will yield better results.
Numerous books from which kids can freely choose. Too few children, especially those from families with low income, have access to books, particularly books they find appealing. Public libraries, digital libraries, used book sales and book swaps are just a few ways to ensure all kids have plenty of books to read.
Abundant time for kids to get lost in books they self-select. Too often, we fill up kids’ days with assignments or activities to keep them occupied with what we want and overlook that they can benefit immensely from unstructured time when they can grab a book and escape into its story or soak up personally interesting information.
Grading less. Frequently scheduled reports and tests about books that, too often, kids don’t really want to read leads to reading avoidance. Perhaps it’s better to support them in reading books they pick freely and really enjoy, as this can help inspire a love of reading. That’s an engine that will pull children into eager and enjoyable daily reading, year-round.
The research is clear. If children learn to love to read when they are young (e.g. by reading daily with family members and friends) and if we keep them supplied with sufficient books they enjoy, along with ample time dedicated to reading (from birth and throughout their school careers), the dreaded summer slide dissipates at astonishing rates. The goal is to get kids reading consistently, all year long.
Not only will they not slide backwards … Children will actually get better at doing what they love to do.
If we want kids to read during the summer time—and all the time— along with all we do to help them grow, maybe we just need to NAG them in the right way.