My son is going in to 5th grade and he has his first Summer Reading Assignment for school. He can pick any 3 chapter books he wants, but he does not love to read. This feels like torture to him. What can we do to help him complete the assignment without hating it?
Molly, in Evanston, IL
A: Summer reading lists are blessing and curse for a lot of families. They make parents feel better because we believe that they help keep kids’ academic knowledge base from sliding backwards over the summer. At the same time, though, they seem like the first big tax hike of a new government administration – a complete reversal of all the campaign promises of summer vacation.
I recommend giving your son as many choices as possible. Does he want to read these books as quickly as he can and get it out of the way so his “real” summer vacation can start? Would he like to read one per month? Does he want to take a break and then do all of them after July 4? Just don’t let him put it off til August! That is a quick way to make the parents feel like school started too early and to change the fun summer evenings into constant battles.
Here are a few suggestions to encourage a reluctant reader.
- Make a visual representation of what the child needs to accomplish (chart, list, pictures of the books).
- Make sure the goals are reasonable for this child. If your school does not differentiate and your child has been below reading level, ask the teacher if she or he feels that your son ought to be able to accomplish this goal.
- Have the child make a list of activities they would like to do or places they would like to go this summer.
- Mesh the two lists – for this much reading we can do this activity, etc.
- For the kid who really doesn’t like to read, don’t focus on the reading, focus on the topic. If this is a child who loves rock climbing, go find age appropriate books about rock climbing, rock climbers, mountains, whatever.
- If there is a vacation that your child is very excited to take someday, use this time to read about that place. He can use resource books to plan the trip, even if you don’t know when you would take it. This has the added advantage (if he does some writing) of helping with the inevitable back-to-school essay about what he read this summer.
The best thing about books is you can go anywhere in them. Help your child go someplace they really want to be! And don’t forget to read near your child. Instead of preaching about how awesome reading is, just show him you find it a worthwhile activity. Kids learn what they live.