Summer is the Time to Instill a Passion for Reading

    Dear Parent Coach,
    I read voraciously as a child, and I’d like to instill that same passion for books in my own children. During the relaxed days of summer, I’d like to encourage my elementary-age children to read more than they are able to during the busy school year. Any ideas of how I can make reading more fun for them?
    Bookworm Mom

    Dear Bookworm Mom,
    Your passionate love of reading will naturally rub off on your children. As they see you pause to relish a good book this summer, encourage them to do the same. Your literary desires will propel you to create opportunities for giving your children a lifelong gift — that of an innate curiosity for discovering amazing things within the pages of a good book.
    A recent Scholastic Book study revealed that parental attitudes toward reading in the home have the single greatest impact on a child’s interest. The study also suggested that Mom is the most significant in helping her children select suitable books — reading level, subject matter and type of books — even more so than teachers. I encourage you, Bookworm Mom, not to tire in your goal of impacting your lucky children this summer!
    Most children crave some delicious “do nothing” time during the summer, after completing a pressured, demanding and activity-crammed academic year. Reading is just what they need – a wonderful, unstructured pastime that introduces them to imaginary friends, carries them to distant lands and soothes their souls.
    Building enthusiasm for reading within a family ensures that good books will always be waiting to fill some of those unplanned summer moments. It also provides a fresh and wonderful way for parents to reconnect with their children as they share in the fun adventures of “bookish characters.”
    Parents such as you, who wish to instill a love of reading in their children, have a perfect answer when children begin to complain of bouts of summer boredom. Parents who grab a good book and read right along with their children — or better yet, read to their children — model a lifelong habit that will forever enrich their children’s lives, summertime and anytime.
    In a recent visit with my Santa Barbara grandchildren, I walked into their home to find a huge stack of library books and various charts on the refrigerator that tracked how many books they were each reading (or had read to them). Does this bring back memories of the library visits of your childhood?
    There are many creative ways to interest children in reading and to include the whole family in sharing this classic hobby — one that is for all times and for all ages. Here are a few.

    1. To launch the summer reading season, head to your favorite bookstore with the whole family and let each person purchase three paperbacks to get started.
    2. In addition, choose a classic that the entire family could enjoy as a read-aloud book. “Charlotte’s Web,” “Tom Sawyer,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Wind in the Willows” are some good choices. Read a chapter aloud each time the family is together, and continue reading in the car on vacation.
    3. Establish a daily “reading hour” in the late afternoon. Encourage everyone to stop, be quiet and read awhile.
    4. Choose one day a week as “library day.” Give each child a book theme, such as weather, dinosaurs, the beach or friendship, and send them on a treasure hunt to find five themed books to check out.
    5. Purchase a hammock to be reserved for special reading times.
    6. Start a Family Bookworm, made with colorful construction paper circles. Add a section to the worm each time a family member completes a book. Let your bookworm grow all summer.
    7. Take children to meet a real author and to have their books signed. Watch local bookstores for announcements of author visits. (I was thrilled recently to have Susan Branch sign her newest book for me at Vroman’s).
    8. Books on tape can be played in the car while on errands, and can be continued each time you get back into the car.
    9. Independent bookstores often offer special events for children related to a specific book series or theme.
    10. On vacation, wherever you may roam, there ought to be a wonderful bookstore. Locate it and spend an hour or two browsing. It may be time for another read-aloud book.
    Being a bookworm mom myself, my children experienced all of the book-friendly activities listed above during the summers of their childhood. Now a family of passionate readers, we never have trouble finding gifts for each other. A book is always a treasured present.
    Reading is no doubt a family-bonding affair: Read alone, read aloud as a family, read the same book as a friend, read in a hammock, read in a tent while you’re camping, read on the beach in Hawaii, read in the treehouse, read on the plane on your way to China, read with a book club, read while eating popcorn, read a whole series of books, read childhood favorites, read in bed, read in the car, read with the cat, read new books, read used books, read in the bathtub, read to discover, read to travel to new places, and read to slow down and soothe your soul. Above all, read!