Family Reading Challenge: Tips for a Summer filled with Reading

Kai from Fiction State of Mind is hosting a week-long event called the Family Reading Challenge. Her goal is to encourage and inspire families to read more this summer. She asked me to write a guest post about how my reading habits developed and how I encourage my own children to read. I hope you enjoy this post because I had a lot of fun writing it.

I didn’t become a reader because I was interested in stories. I became a reader because my parents encouraged my interest in it. When I was in kindergarten I had a hard time learning to read. At that age, most kids are beginners but for some reason I just couldn’t get it. I stumbled over word after word and everyone, (including myself), hated it when I was picked to read aloud. Reading became something to dread.

Everything changed the summer after kindergarten. At that time my father was a stay-at-home dad who tirelessly spent hours teaching me how to read while taking care of my brother and me. My mother bought me book after book though we couldn’t afford it. My parents saw that I was determined to learn and they did everything that they could to help. Their encouragement is one of the many things that have stayed with me over the years. I look at their example to help guide my own parenting.

As a single mother, now it’s my turn to focus that same attention on my children. Here’s a few that I’ve learned over to years to encourage my children to read. Even if you’re not a big reader, there are still ways to get your children and maybe even you to pick up a book this summer and help stop summer slide in its tracks.

  • Be open to your child’s interests. My children have been interested in everything from science to bugs to cookbooks. If my children are interested in it, we read about it. One of my kids may be the next James Beard, Marie Claire, or Zora Neal Hurston. Their interests are my interests. It’s just that simple.
  • The easiest way to get your reluctant reader to read a book is to read one yourself. There are several books I’ve tried urging my kids to read to no avail. It was only when I read the book and the kids seen me laughing that they became interested. You can’t expect your children to read if it’s not a behavior you model.
  • Books are cheap! My mother taught me that as a child. She used to buy my books from thrift stores. More than twenty years later, you can still find me in the book sections of nearby thrift stores scouring for books for my family. I also buy books from my local library that are usually a dollar or less each. Check your local library and see how often they sell books from their collections or donations. Some of the bigger library systems in my area hold sales once a month where patrons can buy a bag full of books for $10.  There’s used bookstores where you can trade old books in for new-to-you ones. You can also find children’s books in .99¢ stores and yard sales.
  • Get a library card! As long as you live in the area that you’re getting a library card, most library cards are free.
  • Ask your children’s librarian for recommendations. It’s okay if you don’t know where to start. That’s what they’re there for.
  • Summer reading club! Besides the warm weather and the end of school, my kids know that it’s summer when our library hosts its annual summer reading club. The program is always simple plus prizes are given out along with an end-of-summer party. When I sign my kids up for the program, I sign up for it too. Most libraries also have a summer reading program for adults.
  • Bedtime reading. Though rain, shine, or migraine I read to my children every night. It’s a way for us to wind down and spend time together.
  • The power of a good narrator. Audio books are a great way to get reluctant readers interested in books. My kids and I check out audio books along with a print copy that they can listen to at anytime. Audio books are also good for young children who don’t know how to read.
  • Graphic novels. Sometimes adults miss the value of comic books by thinking that it’s a format that’s “too easy” to read. The best graphic novels are books that show the best of art and words.  This is a format that offers a lot of excellent reads for people of all ages especially children.
  • Books-to-movies. When my children and I decided to host our own family reading club years ago, one of the ways I encouraged reading was to read a book and then watch the movie version. Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and others played across our TV screens as we watched and discussed which was better: the movie or the book.

That’s my take on encouraging children to read more. Is there anything you think I left out?

Recommended reads for parents:

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey

The Rights of the Reader by Daniel Pennac


About Vasilly

Mother, daughter, sister, college student, bookworm, lover of chocolate and coffee.
This entry was posted in libraries, reading. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Family Reading Challenge: Tips for a Summer filled with Reading

  1. zibilee says:

    We have a tip that worked well in our house when our kids were young too. If it was a weekend night, they could stay up as long as they wanted provided that they were reading. It worked really well. because kids will do anything for a later bedtime, and we tied reading in with that. I love your tips and think they are excellent!

  2. Carl V. says:

    Wow, all of these are really great suggestions and I truly believe that they are all worthwhile ways to not only encourage your child to read but also to spend quality family time together, turning reading from being a solitary activity to a shared one. Great stuff!

    It is wonderful that your parents were so invested in you and reading when you were young. I think that makes all the difference in the world.

    And then there are those anomalies where no matter what you do your child just does not turn into a reader. My wife and I are avid readers and we engaged in all of what you mention above when Tori was little and throughout her childhood and she just never liked to read. She’s very creative and loves to make stuff and go do things so, even now at 19, she thankfully isn’t one of those kids who vegs out in front of the tv or computer. But she doesn’t love to read like we do. However, she loves to be read to, even now. Just last night I was finishing up reading a YA book to her and my wife that I read to her back when she was 7 or 8. She had been wanting me to re-read it to her for a long time. This weekend we will start on the sequel to that book. On occasion she gets an urge and she’ll read a book. She read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson last week. The first book she has read to completion (outside of college courses) for years. We still hold out hope that the reading gene is just latent in her and that it will come alive. LOL!

    • Vasilly says:

      Carl, I agree that not everyone becomes an avid reader. It’s awesome that Tori knows what does interest her and follows that. I think it’s great that you still read to her and she loves it. 🙂

  3. Eva says:

    Love this post Vasilly! It’s funny: my mom did everything on your list but my sister was never really into reading, while I was a natural bookworm. So I know what Carl is talking about too. 🙂

    So far, my niece seems to have the bookworm gene, which is exciting! She’s 5, so she’s learning how to read for herself now (starts K in the fall), and I guess the only tip I’d add is ‘don’t force it.’ Somedays, she’s happy to sound out words and read books to us, other days she just wants to be read to. I don’t make her read herself if she doesn’t want to (although I’ll pick a word that appears often and make it her ‘job’ to always say that word), because I don’t want her to resent it.

  4. Frances says:

    Audio books are great for a struggling reader allowing them to follow along in a text that might be just the right interest level for them but a bit beyond their actual reading level. And they have their own private reader/tutor! I am a big fan of audio books for kids. Tons of great tips here!

  5. Like Eva, I grew up a hard core reader after my mom but my sister is not a reader at all. I love this list, though and I’m hoping it “works” because I have nothing else to add!

  6. Carrie K. says:

    Great post, V!

  7. Belle Wong says:

    Great post with really wonderful tips. I’ve had the same experience as Carl – my older two aren’t really big readers, despite the fact that I did pretty much most of the things you listed when they were younger. My daughter especially – she’s very creative, but for her, it’s all about films and videos, not books. Luckily, my youngest, who’s only 8, IS a reader (just thinking of that makes me beam!) – he loves going to the library. We have stacks of library books everywhere, because we’ve noticed he’ll often plop down wherever he happens to be if he sees a book that looks interesting.

  8. Kai Charles says:

    great post thank you! my computer crashed this morning so I’m just now getting to this im linking to you now 🙂

  9. Bree says:

    Great post. Wonderful ideas to share.

  10. Niranjana says:

    Great post, love these ideas! The other thing that has worked for me is to make up stories about literary characters. So my 4-yr-old, who is too young for, say, Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain meets the Moon, still gets to hear a simple version of the story as he looks at the illustrations, and he knows that the book has all this good stuff waiting to be discovered when he’s older. Whets his appetite for the real thing (I hope!)

  11. Akilah says:

    Another good tip is letting your kids read stories to you, even if they can’t read the words yet.

    Oh and when my daughter refused to sleep when she was three, my prof recommended that I let her stay up and read instead of fighting her.

    The other great things about audiobooks is that it allows you and the kids to experience the book together. My daughter and I take turns picking what audiobook we listen to in the car.

  12. Pingback: Bookish links for Saturday, July 2, 2011 | BOOKS AND MOVIES

  13. ibeeeg says:

    Fantastic post! I don’t have much to add to what has already been said. Except, I don’t think the goal is to gain an avid reader. I think the goal is to have good readers which helps in almost every area of life. Although, gaining an avid reader in the family is extremely fun!
    Again, fantastic post. All your ideas are very worthy.

  14. rebeccareid says:

    Another great book for parents is “ABCs of Literary”. I love your ideas, and they echo things we do in our home already. I LOVE the library. I break my back bringing home picture books to read! 🙂

  15. Kathleen says:

    These are great tips. My niece has two kids under the age of three and I am going to send these to her. My son is 17 now so my work is pretty much done as far as raising a reader goes!

  16. What fun! I wish our library had a summer reading club for adults too: I liiiike stickers. ::grin::

    I remember thinking Trelease’s book was terrific when I first started back into reading kids books when I was an adult, but I recently checked it out again and found parts of the commentary very disappointing. Do you know the tone that I mean? Perhaps it was just me…

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