Wednesday, May 23, 2012

10 Bits of Advice for Getting Your Kids to Read This Summer

by Chad "I really don't know what I'm doing, but read my blog anyway" Morris

“Mom, I’m bored,” I said.

“Why don’t you read?” she responded.

“Because I hate to read.” I thought my answer was pretty straightforward. And I meant it with all of my third-grade heart.

Until I started reading something I really liked. In my case, it was The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. For you it was War and Peace or Crime and Punishment. Okay, maybe not, but it was something fantastic. For your kids, it could be anything.

With summer around the corner, I thought I’d throw some thoughts into the mix about encouraging kids to read. I also asked for help on facebook and got some good thoughts. For example, this whole idea may be a bit difficult. Sometimes kids don’t like to sit still. Sci-fi writer Indigo Chase recommended, “Stock up on duct tape...:o).” Here are a few ideas.

If your kids are around books, you never know when they might just pick one up. Go to the library, visit a bookstore, stack a few books on the countertop or coffee table. Move a bookshelf where the kids will pass it everyday. Display them so they can see the covers. When surrounded with a lot of choices, kids are more likely to pick something they are actually interested in. The more books they can choose from, and the more often they have opportunities, the higher the likelihood.  

It takes some mind juice to read. It doesn’t require nearly as much to watch a movie, play video games, or hop onto the internet. When kids have a choice, they often choose the path of least resistance (Good thing we don't do that as adults. Wait a second . . . ). You might want to set limits on when they can be used, or even schedule time when they are off limits. You could even go crazy and try to go a whole week with them.

Becca Wilhite, author of My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions and Miracle shared a pretty intense but awesome idea, “We do a minute-for-minute read-for-plug-in-time thing. (It's not rocket science, but if you want 20 minutes of computer, you read 20 minutes first.)”

It may help to go somewhere away from the distractions. Hang out at the library for a while, and encourage your kids to read there. Shelly Brown, who had a a big time editor request a full of her MG manuscript recently added, “We would go to Woodland park (a park that is more trees than anything—no big toy). The kids could either play or read, but we were going to be there for a while, so they usually did both. We also bring books to the pool. When they are tired of swimming they can read.”

If you can get them started when other distractions are limited, I think you have a better shot at them reading once they get home. I was by no means a bookworm growing up. I was a little more prone to playing ball at the park, riding my bike down mountain . . . etc.  But I read a lot of books on vacation. You can only water-ski so much (and we did it SOOO MUCH) before your body needs a break. You can only hike so much, and when there isn’t TV, movies, internet, or video games around, reading a book can be very natural for those who may not normally read.

So, I asked my kids what parents could do to help their kids read over the summer. There was a trend in their responses. “I know. Make them get a treat if they read it.” (7-year-old). “Give them a toy with the book” (7-year-old boy. Yeah, we have twins.) “Give them a prize if they do a certain amount of reading all summer” (10-year-old boy).

Wendy Simmerman, an obvious guru on kids and reading, added, “use reading time as a reward or occasional get-out-of-work card.. . . offer prizes like a small bookstore gift card or choosing something from (which is so sneaky b/c they are excited about the prize and choosing their own, but in reality you just got them reading even more;),” She also added, “offer a really outrageous prize for reading an outrageous number of books or for reading all the way through a challenging list of books (right now my new 7-yr old is busting his butt to read 100 chapter books because I'm dangling the unheard of sum of $25 in front of him.”.

“Barnes and Noble does reading programs, and the state fair and the governor has a literacy program. And we do all of those.” (Shelly Brown)

Diane Hunt, an avid reader and mom said, “local libraries often have great incentives for reading during the summer. Running record via computer with great rewards for kids. Of course her husband, Jeff Hunt responded with “I never read during the summer and I turned out okay.” But that’s coming from a guy who likes the Lakers. Just consider the source.

David Van Leeuwen an amazing guy down the hall at work recommended, “having them read the Hobbit so they can go see the movie in December.” That idea of having kids read a book before they see a movie, has worked great for the Harry Potters in our home. 

If you want to be more regimented about it, set aside time for reading. Whether it is ten minutes or two hours, it could help. Bedtime is gold. Make it a requirement that they have to get in their beds and be quiet by a certain time. Then they can decide whether they sleep or read. When compared to sleeping, most kids will choose reading every time.

There are many ways to bring kids and books together, and everybody likes a little variety. Do a read-a-thon and give them an array of delectable sweetness to eat while they do it. Read to them aloud. Becca Whilhite said, “I still read aloud to my kids (something awesome) even though they've all been fluent readers for years.” My mom used to read to us after she dished up desert. We were all quiet while eating, and then by the time we were done, we were hooked and couldn’t just get up and leave. Turn on an audio book. (This is especially good for REALLY long car rides.) Go crazy and let them read on your kindle. They just might feel so privileged they will actually read it.

Even mix up the methods. Start it as an audio book to get them hooked and then hand them the copy of the book. With the beginning readers in my house I’ve had them read one paragraph of a book, and then I read the next page and half. Then it is their turn again.  

Wendy Simmerman also threw out a few more creative ideas into the pot, “encourage them to read aloud in silly voices. . . create fun places to read like family reading party on your bed or lounging on the patio/balcony, offer an occasional late night to read by flashlight in bed.”

There are author signings going on all the time. Check your local bookstore. If your kids get to meet an author, they are often more excited about reading their stuff. I know that has worked with my children and Brandon Mull and Tyler Whitesides (see below). 

Around Utah, they also have events like the KSL Book Festival, that my kids really like.

Have them ask their friends for recommendations. If they are older, have them post something like this on their facebook: “My parents want me to read over the summer. Any book suggestions that won’t bore me?” When their friends make suggestions, they are so much more likely to read. You might also look at an author website they already like. Sometimes they have suggestions. (For example - at the bottom of the page on this link) 

Have them share their opinions: Tell them you have a bunch of friends on line that want to know what books kids really like. Encourage them to read something to tell them if they really liked it. Emphasize that you want their honest opinion. You may even have them write a review for your blog . . . etc. Kids (like us crazy bloggers) love to share their opinions.

Look up book trailers on Youtube. Almost every publishing house is doing them to get kids interested in books. You might as well use them.
Maybe even have them read the back copy of several books and pick out the one they like the best.

Whatever you decide, do your best to live up to the same expectations you have for your kids. They can sniff out a hypocrite a mile away. When you go to the library, find books for yourself too. When it’s reading time, read. Keep track of your own pages on the poster. When they see you do it, they know its really important, not just talk. You may even have to go to unusual lengths to make sure they see you doing what you asked them too.

Wow, you read that whole thing? Well, add all the great ideas I didn't think of in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by.  


  1. A lot of great suggestions here. I read to my kids. Clear into their high school years.

  2. So many great suggestions! I especially love the one you passed along from Becca about the minute for minute trade of screen time with reading. My kids do enjoy reading, but I'm always looking for ways to get them to read even more especially in the summertime. Thanks for all the ideas!

  3. Great ideas. My kids are still young, 2 and 3, but I figure if I get them started young reading will just be a part of their life when they're older.

  4. wonderful stuff---my grand-kids are loving this new used book store where they have credits to buy if they want and have a wonderful selection of kids books and a comfy area to sit and read!

  5. Nice! You've given me a few more ideas for this summer...

  6. Great suggestions! My little guy would rather play games than read, even though he's an excellent reader. These are some GREAT tips. :D

  7. Yep, I read the whole thing. Great ideas! It makes me excited for the summer. And I'm totally going to take the kids up the canyon for some quiet reading time!

  8. These are excellent ideas!!! I use the reward method myself. For every chapter book they read I do an activity with them: take them swimming, to the movies, out to eat. I love it!


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