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Top tips to keep kids reading over the holidays

Boys in library

It comes as no surprise that children love school holidays! Being free of the restraints of going to school every day and being able to relax is a valuable part of growing up. 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 clearly shows that when kids put down school books on their break, their reading ability also drops with it. The term “summer slide” is well established and refers to children dropping in their reading ability following a lack of reading over the summer break. Teachers also frequently report that students return to school after their break with a lower reading level and interest in books, than when they left previously. Therefore it’s vital that we continue to encourage our children to read widely and often whilst they are on holidays.

 Here are my top tips to make sure your kids stay engaged with reading over the school break.

1. Make reading time fun (and quick!)

It is easy and necessary to make reading together the most fun time of every day. Read together with funny voices, try humorous books to engage the reluctant readers in your family and trust that toilet humour is often a sure-fire 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 bookstores and the local library

Make regular visits to bookstores and the local library part of your family’s routine. These trips are simple ways to drive reading passion. Bookstores often sell brand new popular kids’ books for less than $10, much less than a movie ticket. 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).

3. Allow children to choose what they want to read

Book choice is a vital component of the reading process. As adults, we very rarely read anything that we either don’t love or enjoy. If we read a book and it takes a while to get going, or we lose interest, we simply put it down, or lend it to a friend. Why then do we insist that children must read cover to cover something that they don’t necessarily enjoy or like? Often these imposed choices on children come from a place of love – we are trying to support the children in accessing a text that is at their reading level. It is often hard to let go and let children choose their own books, however it is vital to developing strong, self-sufficient readers. If you are picking up a book at the bookstore for your child during your lunch break, grab a few different titles. Having a selection to choose from will allow your children to have control over their reading process.

4. Have a ‘screen free night’ each week

Make a screen free night part of your family’s regular routine 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. Another approach to the screen free night may be to invest in reading lamps or book lights so that children can read in bed before sleep.

5. Give books as gifts

Birthdays and Christmas for kids mean presents, and more books in the house can never go astray. Gift the next book in the series that your child is loving – the 65 Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths or the Alice-Miranda series by Jacqueline Harvey are great places to start. Encourage your child to lend and swap their books with friends once they have read them.

6. 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:

  1. Wait: give your child a chance to figure out the word on their own.
  2. Ask: does that make sense? Does the picture give you a clue? Could you read on for more information?
  3. 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 school break allows you to not only establish your family as active readers, but will give them the best possible start for when they return to school.

Ryan Spencer, University of Canberra, Dymocks Literacy Spokesperson.

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