Summertime is here and while children deserve a break from their usual routines, reading is one academic skill that should stay.

To be successful, reading takes practice, and children need to make daily reading a high priority in the summer.

As a bonus, children who learn to read fluently become independent learners with the doors to an endless number of ideas wide open to them. Here are some tips to keep your kids reading, and actually enjoying it:

Plan your daily reading sessions around a family challenge.

Set goals for each reader in either number of books read or number of pages read. Set both weekly goals that are rewarded with small prizes and work toward a summer goal with a larger reward that can be earned. Weekly prizes can be as simple as a trip to McDonald’s, five extra minutes of screen time or a new inexpensive toy. The end of summer reward should be something pretty exciting such as a day at a waterpark or an overnight stay at the beach. Don’t break the bank, but make the prizes motivating. Keep a chart to track progress and it will be fun for everyone.

Use your local library as a resource.

Libraries love to issue library cards to young readers and usually have a motivating challenge going themselves. See which day story hours are held and find out if you can dovetail your summer challenge with theirs. Libraries work hard to meet the needs of children over their summer months and often have special activities planned just for them. Find out more about summer reading programs in metro Atlanta here.

Do you belong to a book club?

If you do, you know the routine. Gather a group, select a book everyone wants to read and then meet weekly to share ideas, answer questions together and talk about what you did or didn’t enjoy. Children are perfectly able to do this with some guidance. So, gather the family or include some neighborhood kids of reading age and go for it. Book clubs for parents and children are also popular. Search online for tips on starting your own parent-child book club. Crafts and snacks related to the book being read round out the book club experience.

You may not be aware of all the excellent children’s reading websites available online.

If you have access to a computer, visit some of these sites with your children and watch them get excited about reading:

Select several of your children’s favorite books and go to the author websites.

You’ll be amazed at how rich and stimulating author sites have become. They have stories to read and lots of related crafts and games to do, too. Some favorites are and

Choose a chapter book that the whole family will enjoy and do a family read-aloud in the evenings or in the car while you travel.

Choose a book with enough drama to keep all members interested. “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls is a good choice or try “The Indian in the Cupboard” by Lynn Reid Banks. You can even choose a series and try to finish it before summer is over. If the book was made into a movie, have a family movie night as a reward for finishing the book.

Be a reader yourself.

Believe it or not, children of readers are influenced to read more by seeing their parents with their noses in a good book. If dinner conversation is sometimes about good books and the ideas inside them, so much the better.

Encourage children to spend lots of time this summer running, playing and taking a break from the classroom, but be sure to include quality time with reading as well. Your kids will learn to enjoy the world of books — there are endless topics and genres to enjoy — and they’ll also be better prepared to get going on their learning again next fall. Happy Summer Reading!

—Jan Pierce

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