We’re heading into summer and that means fun, sun, and NO SCHOOL! While your kids may think they are too cool for school it’s important to keep them reading. We went to expert Susan Mankowski, our Early Childhood Learning Specialist, to discover why it’s extra important to keep kids reading during the summer and ways to prevent the “summer slide.”
Susan started off with simple tips to help kids cultivate their love of reading, and said, “It’s important to read year-round…Having a special time of day where the family comes together to relax and read sets a tone that this is an enjoyable and happy time.” She said to look at it as a way to bond with your children as much as it is a way to learn the language. If you show it’s important and fun for you, your children will also see this as time well spent. And again, the goal is to be a positive experience! Variety is the spice of life, so don’t limit yourself. Pace out chapter books, fiction, non-fiction, comics, graphic novels, magazines and more. If it has words on it, use it!
Susan’s Top Tips:
- Make time daily for family reading time.
- Get out and learn! Connect life to books and explore with your children!
- Ask questions and engage with daily activities!
- Let them read what they love!
Summertime means more free time (usually) and all of a sudden you’ve become a camp director. Use that time to build those language skills! Reading and learning new skills does not have to be restrictive! “Going to places like the zoo, museums, parks, and the library creates vibrant and exciting learning opportunities where kids want to learn, play, and grow.” Not all of these activities require a ticket, all library programs and materials are free to the public. Many museums and cultural spots offer discounts and kid days too! Jax Mom Blog and Fun 4 First Coast Kids are an awesome resource when looking for programs and events for kids.
Back to that “summer slide” aka a dreaded term at the library. Children’s reading skills can slide during the summer when they get out the habit of reading. By itself, it’s not a huge deal, but year after year the summer slide builds. Over time your child’s reading level is much lower, and once they are ready to move on to middle school they may not be prepared. That being said, there are ways to help!
Susan recommends that “If you’re going to the zoo, museum, park, circus, etc., check out some books about the topic before you go so your child can be more knowledgeable. Your children (or nieces and nephews or students) may even be more excited and engaged when they get to the exhibit because they have some background knowledge to pull from!” Last, but not least, bring awareness to times you use reading skills for everyday, mundane actions. It may sound a little like you’re narrating your life but you'd be amazed by what a simple, “Oh look, Atlantic Boulevard! Here’s our exit!” or “Let’s look at the price tag to see how much this shirt costs.” can accomplish. These regular verbal reminders call attention to the importance of everyday reading.
When it comes to getting the most out of reading with your kids it’s important to distance reading from chores. Reframe thinking to “this is special time carved out of our busy day, and our busy life, to be together and share this experience.” Susan acknowledges that isn’t always easy – being a parent means wearing many hats! Don’t restrict yourself to thinking you have to read a book. Books are wonderful, and the first thing people think of when it comes to reading, but there are other options and formats to fit your lifestyle and situation at hand. Audiobooks are great for car rides to and from school or practice, e-books are portable and as accessible as your phone, and comics and graphic novels are wonderful for starting conversations with children, all of which are found at the Jacksonville Public Library!
If you’ve seen your child struggling when it comes to reading, whether it’s high-school level Jane Austen or paging through Dr. Seuss, Susan says there are a couple of ways to turn it around. “Reading can be very difficult! Acknowledge this to your child, then work with them to find the right book that THEY want to read.” Children become proficient in reading between the ages of 4 and 8 years of age, but that’s with a strong foundation in pre-literacy skills and barring any other reading delay. It’s important to be their cheerleader by providing them consistency and support when it comes to a daily reading habit, because it’s all about practice. “Take away the stigma of being a struggling reader by helping them realize they may never love reading, but they will get there with practice and strategies for success.”
Above all, Susan wants to make sure that parents and guardians know that if little ones (or slightly older ones) are struggling, don’t worry so much about getting them special materials to help them read. It’s all about what your child wants to read. That’s what will be the most engaging, and empower them to continue to want to continue to read! Set them on a path to devour books. “The more well-read you are,” Susan says, “the more informed you are, which helps in making decisions and understanding other people’s perspectives. But reading is not easy! Thankfully like most skills, the more you practice the better you’ll become. Then you will not have to rely on others for knowledge … you can seek it yourself.”
If you’re worried that your child might need help reading, come see us. Our children’s librarians are happy to have you attend a story time and provide insight. Fom young children (birth-5), to kids (5-12), to teen (12-18), we have you covered! Our programs are always free and we love having you. If you would like more information about our summer programs or programs for kids and teens, visit our website!