As the warmer weather settles in we know that it isn’t long before children are free of the restraints of school for another year. The regular reading that is a part of many children’s school day suddenly comes to an end as there are far more interesting things to do on vacation than read a book, right?

Research though has shown that when kids put down the books for their summer break, often their reading ability drops with it. The term “slide” refers to children dropping in their reading ability following a lack of reading over the summer break. Teachers frequently report that students return to school in January with a lower reading level and interest in books, than when they left in December.

While research predominately focuses upon the long mid year summer vacations of the northern hemisphere, there is still an emerging trend within Australian schools, albeit over a shorter break. Achievement gaps are often identified in lower socio-economic communities due to lack of available resources and books within the home. Some children simply don’t have access to books once the school library closes for the year. However, you don’t need money in order to prevent the slide for your children.

Here are five tips to make sure your kids stay engaged with reading over the summer break.

1. Make reading time fun (and quick!)

It is easy and necessary to make reading together the most fun time of everyday. Read together with funny voices, try humorous books to engage the reluctant readers in your family and trust that toilet humour is often a surefire winner for most boys. You should aim for no more than ten minutes reading together – just enough to encourage the kids to come back tomorrow. Set a timer if you need to, it will encourage them to ask for a minute or two more when reading time comes to an end.

2. Visit the local library and bookstores

Make regular visits to the local public library and bookstores as part of your family’s routine. These trips are simple ways to drive reading passion. Many children are amazed when they discover that they can borrow sometimes up to twenty books from their local library for free (and probably will the first time). Discount department stores often sell brand new popular kids books for less than A$10, much less than a movie ticket.

3. Have a ‘screen free night’ each week

Make a screen free night part of your family’s regular routine (except for eReaders of course) where everyone in the family picks up something to read. Having your children see you read and talk about books adds value to this reading time. Different approaches to the screen free night may be to invest in reading lamps or book lights so that children can read in bed before sleep.

4. Give books as gifts

Christmas for kids means presents, and more books in the house can never go astray. Gift the next book in the series that your child is loving – the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney or the 52nd Storey Treehouse by Australia’s Andy Griffiths are great places to start. Encourage your child to lend and swap their books with friends once they have read them.

Buy kids books they like to prevent the summer reading slide Flickr/Chris_Parfitt, CC BY
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5. Read together using supportive strategies

When you are reading together with your child, it’s a great idea to give them the option of how they would like to read. Provide the opportunity for children to choose whether they would like to read aloud or silently. Check if they would like to try paired reading if they feel like they need extra support with the book.

When your child comes to a word that they don’t know or aren’t sure of, remember to:

Wait: give your child a chance to figure out the word on their own

Ask: does that make sense? Does the picture give you a clue? Could you read on for more information?

Then skip: if the child is still stuck on the word, ask them to skip it and read on. You can always drop that word into the conversation as you turn the page. This has the added advantage of not making the child wrong!

Working with your child to maintain good reading habits over their summer break allows you to not only establish your family as active readers, but will give them the best possible start to the next school year.

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