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Help Your Kids Get Lost-in a Book

Help Your Kids Get Lost--in a Book
Barb Szyszkiewicz

Summer is a great time to read, and many schools require students to complete summer reading assignments to ensure that kids' reading skills get a workout in the summertime.  If your child's not a natural-born bookworm, you both may be dreading these reading assignments.  The last thing you want to do is to turn reading for pleasure into reading for torture.  Try these family-tested tips to help even reluctant readers enjoy getting lost in a book.

Join the Club

Libraries and bookstores offer plenty of summer-reading programs.  Many even give prizes for reading a certain number of books.  Ask at the library's Youth Services Desk to find out how to join the Summer Reading Club; recording books read and time spent reading can be rewarding!  Our local library offers free books, fast-food coupons, school supplies and small toys as incentives for completing a summer reading folder.  At Barnes & Noble bookstores, kids can bring in a completed Summer Reading Journal showing that they've read 8 books; they'll receive a free book from a selected list.  Borders bookstores offer a similar program.  Kids will receive a free book after reading 10 books and listing them on their Double-Dog-Dare form.

Be a Bookworm

The best way to show your children that reading is important is to model the behavior.  Let the kids see you reading for enjoyment.  That doesn't mean you have to pick up War and Peace or some other huge book.   It also doesn't mean that your book has to be in paper form.  Download the Kindle app for your iPad, or check out books on CD from the library.  If you're not a fan of fiction, find a nonfiction book about a subject that interests you.

Get It Together

It's a lot of fun to read together as a family.  Instead of turning on the TV after dinner, pile onto the sofa with a bunch of favorite books.  Got preschoolers?  Have a family storytime!  Families with older kids can sit together and read independently.  You can even bring along a book or CD on your next long car trip.  The miles will fly by, and you might even notice a reduction in backseat bickering as the kids become engrossed in the story.  Wouldn't it be great if "Are we there yet?" turns into "Do we have to get out of the car?  We just got to the good part!"

Pencil It In

Require reading time before allowing your child to turn on the TV or play video games.  Using game time as a reward for reading can help kids to stop procrastinating and finish their assignments.  If your child doesn't have a specific summer-reading assignment, consider making a contract with him.  Agree on a small reward after your child has read a certain number of books.  Make the goal attainable, and encourage your child to spend time each day working to reach that goal.

Bring It to Life

Link your child's reading to family fun.  Visit places mentioned in their chosen books, if they're local.  Use a world map or the Internet to locate other spots and see what they look like.  Spend time cooking together; make and eat a meal described in the book.  If your child is reading the "Little House" books, for example, pick up a copy of The Little House Cookbook and plan a meal using those recipes.  Pick up nonfiction books with your child and try out new sports, arts and crafts, or science experiments.

Plan Ahead

Don't leave a summer reading assignment  till the last minute.  Check with your child's school to find out if there is written homework or a test associated with summer reading.  If so, discuss the book with your child to make sure your child has read and understood the selected books.  When assignments include several longer works, help your child break up the reading into manageable chunks.  If he/she has 500 pages to read before the end of the summer, divide 500 by the number of days left until school starts.  The answer will be the number of pages to read each day to reach that goal.

Choose Your Own Adventure

If your child's summer reading assignment allows for book selection, let the child choose the books.   A family trip to the bookstore to choose some new books is always a fun outing.   Kids will enjoy books more if they choose the books themselves, whether they ask their friends for recommendations or find new books simply by browsing in a bookstore.  The most important thing is to get kids reading--and then to keep them reading!  Reading as few as four books over the summer will help your child maintain those reading skills she worked on so hard all during the school year.  Prevent summer setbacks--read!

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