Summer is in full swing, as are, I imagine, parents’ anxieties about children losing their academic progress in the face of family vacations, late-night sleepovers, and endless hours spent in front of screens of various sizes. Of course there are a seemingly infinite number of options for summer camps and enrichment programs, but seeing as my kids are four and one, I don’t know much about them. As a former English teacher, however, and a lifelong lover of literature, I feel certain that continuing to read all summer is the most important form of “summer enrichment” for all kids. I can’t speak about subjects such as math and science, but reading, and reading often and reading a variety of texts, is one of the best ways to improve vocabulary, sophistication of speech and writing, and critical thinking. It’s also a simple and inexpensive yet wonderful form of entertainment during the too-hot-to-be-outside summer months. Bully for you if your kids already love to read, or be read to; however if your kids find reading to be a chore, then I don’t envy the battles you have to fight. Know that it doesn’t matter too much what they read, as long as they read. Reading all different kinds of literature is most beneficial, but if you’re already struggling to convince your kids to read for leisure, then let them read whatever they want, within reason. :) If your older child doesn’t care for fiction but likes to stay abreast of current events, encourage him/her to read The New York Times online (or any veritable periodical). If your child is interested in only comic books, introduce him/her to a popular graphic novel, but also just let him/her read the comic books. Another way to motivate is to offer some kind of reward for reading a certain amount. You can develop your own system of rewards or you can turn to one of the fantastic and free summer reading programs offered by our local libraries and bookstores. Children unable to read can be read to and still qualify for all of the programs. Here are some of my favorites:
1) BookPeople’s “Give Me Summer! Give Me Books!” program is for kids in Kindergarten through eighth grade. The annoying thing is that you have to actually go to Bookpeople to pick up the summer reading bookmark for your child, but anyway it’s a wonderful bookstore and definitely worth visiting. Your child will use the bookmark to track his/her reading and turn it back in to the store at the end of the summer. The program asks your child to read six age-appropriate books during the summer, three of his/her own choosing and three from the Bookpeople selection of six books. A bonus is that Rickshaw Girl, a story about a young Bangladeshi girl, is one of the six selections for the K-2 level. Your child’s reward for turning in the completed bookmark is a Bookpeople gift certificate and adding his/her name to the Wall of Summer Reading Stars.
2) All Austin/Cedar Park Half-Price Books stores are running their “Feed Your Brain” summer reading program which asks kids to read for fifteen minutes each day during the months of June and/or July. After logging 300 minutes of reading your child can turn in his/her log for a reward of five dollars in HPB Bookworm Bucks. High school kids can read one age-appropriate book in June and/or July and write and turn in a short review in order to collect the reward.
3) Barnes and Noble stores are holding their “Summer Reading Triathalon” program for which you can download, complete, and turn in the Summer Reading Triathalon Reading Journal (PDF). From what I can see, your child doesn’t actually have to read new books to complete the journal; he/she can answer the questions using previously read books. Also, the questions ask for titles and authors of books only so it’s pretty easy to complete. I imagine the “Journal” is intended to inspire kids to reflect upon the books that they have read and which ones left an impression. Parents can use this Journal to initiate a discussion about literature with their kids. As a reward your child gets to pick a free book from the Barnes and Noble lists by age level.
4) Austin Public Library is running special children’s programming throughout the summer in the form of story times, musical performances, theatrical performances, and much more. Check out their web site to view all of the offerings. Kids and teenagers can print out a summer reading log for June, July, and August on which they record all of the books they read during those months. Upon turning in the log, they can choose one (library?) book to keep in June or July and one in August.
5) Cedar Park Public Library is also running special children and teen events during the summer in addition to the usual children’s programming. Kids and teens can print out a reading log to track minutes of reading, and for every 200 minutes read (300 for teens), they can visit the library to pick up their prize packs that consist of (according to the library web site) “a colored cut-out to display in the library’s window and special incentive awards and coupons.”
6) Round Rock Public Library seems to have the most complex summer reading program and frankly I can’t explain exactly what your kids are supposed to do, aside from read. The “On Your Mark, Get Set…Read!” program uses a point system and assigns points for minutes read as well as books completed. There are programs designed for all different ages and according to the library web site, kids “earn points and collect badges for reading and playing games. “ After 300 points, kids earn a prize (I have no idea what it is). It appears you have to register on the web site (though you don’t have to be a Round Rock resident) in order to participate and since I refused to register, I cannot provide any more information. :) But, this program could be really great for kids who are tech-savvy and love to be on the computer. It definitely seems like a highly-interactive adventure! Ugh, now I feel guilty; perhaps I will register and check it out after all. :)
Happy Reading, SAAM friends and kids! Let me know if you would like me to recommend specific book titles and/or authors for your kids. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have read quite a few children’s books over the years. :)