After months of screen-based learning, I realized that my kids hadn’t picked up a book in quite a while. The uphill battle to complete their daily online school tasks quickly spelled the end of any independent reading routines we had previously established.
Depending on how the online learning scenario played out in your family, you may be witnessing an early “summer slide” or wondering about your child’s readiness for the next grade. Luckily, there is something that can be done about it this summer. In our house, we’re going to re-commit to reading.
Reading is a universal skill that is useful in every subject area, as it builds vocabulary and enhances comprehension. As kids read, they are using their imaginations, making connections, and learning how a story is told. It can also provide valuable “quiet time” where they can finally unplug and slow down.
Here are some ideas to get age-appropriate reading material into your kids’ hands:
Believe me, I want to close the laptop and keep my kids off screens as much as humanly possible, too. But, if you have a tween who likes Harry Potter, you’ll want to introduce them to J.K. Rowling’s latest publication – available online for free – called The Ickabog. Although it’s not about wizards, the story has built-in suspense since it’s being shared in instalments, with one or two short chapters added to the website every weekday. Even my 13-year-old, who is usually allergic to mainstream fiction, is enjoying the medieval fairy tale. It does have some darker elements, like deception, kidnapping and murder, so it may not be suitable for the younger crowd.
Inspiration may come from ordering the latest and greatest title online (or from a local bookseller, if available). This summer, I have resolved to treat any reading as good reading – which means it’s open season on graphic novels (traditionalists would call them “comics”) like Dog Man, The Bad Guys and Big Nate. My boys are also drawn to “hybrid” books where paragraphs are interspersed with funny illustrations – their favourites are Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants, and House of Robots. When I asked my nieces for recommendations, they gave thumbs-up emojis to the new Babysitter’s Club series, Dork Diaries, Elements of Genius, and anything by Raina Telgemeier. The popular stuff is popular for a reason, so if your crew will read it, by all means follow the trends.
Your regional situation will dictate if your local library is open, but even if it isn’t, there is likely an impressive selection of eBooks and digital magazines available from the online catalogue. Once you’re logged in, you may be able to put items on hold and schedule a curbside pick-up. Check if your branch is offering a virtual Summer Reading Club for kids. Typically structured around tracking one’s reading activity and entering prize draws, these programs can provide a boost of external motivation (as opposed to, say, Mom’s constant nagging).
Ask around to friends, cousins and neighbours. Does anyone own a series your child hasn’t read yet? Set up a book swap to get some fresh content for your shelves. Tip #1: label or stamp your books clearly to avoid mix-ups. Tip #2: make a list (or take a picture) of the outgoing and incoming books, so you can reference it when it’s time to trade back.
This is the “read whatever you can find” category. Maybe you still have some of your childhood novels in the basement – timeless classics like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, or Anne of Green Gables. Dig through the yard sale boxes for an old Garfield treasury or some back issues of Sports Illustrated. Peek into your neighbourhood’s Little Library and see if anything looks good. (If you do choose something from a community collection, try to minimize handling it, wash your hands, and consider setting it aside for a few days before reading.)
Depending on your kids’ age and reading level, you may want to read with them, either for the duration of the book or just at the start, to get them going. Some books may be serious, while others will be unapologetically goofy. Expect an equal mix of duds and hits. What matters is that they’re reading something – anything – to turn the page on this disjointed school year.