How to get even the most reluctant reader to turn pages this summer

By Ann Dolin, M.Ed.

WASHINGTON — Getting your child to engage in learning over the summer can be a tough task, especially if you have a reluctant reader on your hands.  The good news is there are some fun and easy ways to incorporate reading without going overboard.

Here are a variety of suggestions that might just work for your child.

For those who like to read, but not write

Perhaps one of the most important academic activities kids can engage in is reading.  I love the Scholastic website, which allows students to peruse books by reading level and interest. Just click on the age level and interests of your child.

Have a third grader who loves horses?  There’s a book for her.  How about a reluctant eighth grader who finds no joy in reading, but loves cars and motorcycles? There’s a book for him, too.  The key is to allow your child to choose the book or magazine he finds most interesting.

My favorite summer books

Book with no words
The New York Times best-selling “The Book With No Pictures,” by B.J. Novak.

Although the Scholastic site is an easy way to find books by category, keep in mind that the titles you find are only published by Scholastic.  There are lots of other amazing books on the market.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • “The Book with No Pictures” (preschool, early elementary): This is an unlikely New York Times Best-Seller because the book actually has no pictures. The silly sounds and ridiculous voices have children around the country laughing out loud with every page turned.
  • “Wonder” (middle school students): One of my favorite books of all time, “Wonder,” is a no. 1 New York Times Best-Seller that has captivated over a million readers. It is about a boy who was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to school, but in fifth grade he starts at Beecher Prep and wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid. The story is told from the perspective of the main character but quickly switches to the perspective of his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend and others. These perspectives converge around how young people struggle with empathy, compassion and acceptance. A great read for older elementary students, middle schoolers for sure, and even high schoolers and adults.
  • Wonder
    “Wonder” is a favorite among children and adults, alike.

    “Paper Towns” (high school students): Written by John Green, the wildly popular author of “The Fault in Our Stars,” this book’s movie adaptation is coming out this summer, meaning it will be a huge hit with teens. It explores topics such as growing up and graduating high school. Plus, it has a sense of mystery to it.

Why Kindle may be better than paperback 

Keep in mind that some students are so averse to reading that they do best by listening to audio books.  This strategy works even better when kids follow along in the hard copy while listening. Some studies show that this improves fluency and comprehension even more than reading the hard copy book alone.

But give your child an iPad or expensive Kindle Fire with all the bells and whistles, and before too long, she could be doing anything but reading. Amazon has just come out with a $99 Kindle reader, a very basic version of the Kindle Fire.  Check out the options.

Now here’s the hard question:  How do you get your child to actually read?

There are a few things you can do.  The first is to dedicate time after dinner for DEAR (Drop Everything and Read).  Put those phones down and turn the TV off so that everyone is reading his own book.

Another idea is to have the whole family read the same book, kind of like a book club.  Be sure that the youngest child can read the book. An easy way to do this is the five-finger rule.  If your child can read one page with no mistakes, the book is probably a bit too easy.  If she misreads one to three words, the book is within her range, but if she misses four or five words on the page, it’s probably too difficult.

And lastly, most kids will want to read before bed.  It’s relaxing.  You may need to get your child started by reading every other page for her.  Once she has a good start, let her go at it alone.

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