The lovely long summer holidays are almost upon us. For us the summer holidays provide an extended break from our regular routines and it is a time for slowing down. Weekend sport and after school activities are not part of our schedule nor are the standard homework requirements.
Over the summer holidays however, I still try to keep the kids reading as much as possible. Having reached the end of school life for one child and watching the others progress their way through their school years, I am absolutely convinced that reading widely and often, is one of the best things kids can do to help their education.
Reading helps in so many ways, it helps:
- improve general knowledge
- increase their vocabulary
- enhance their writing skills
- improve their focus and attention span (especially in our 140 character world)
Some kids are more drawn than others to pick up a book and read. It is certainly that way in our house and there is a tricky line between forcing kids to read and encouraging them to read for pleasure.
Our child in year 10 next year has a set text he has to read and some associated work to complete with it over the holidays. Our daughter in year 8 also has a set text to read and notes to make for the book. But I would still also like them to read some books of their choice for pleasure.
Reading for pleasure has fierce competition these days. Our kids are on online generation and are used to having constant entertainment on tap. Reading a book takes a lot more work than passively watching your 100th Youtube video or absentmindedly scrolling through an Instagram feed for half an hour.
But this summer holidays, like the ones previous to it, I will be doing my best to keep my kids reading over the summer holidays. Below I have listed some of the strategies I use. How successful they are depend on the child, the day and what else is competing for their attention, but I still give it a go and mix up what I try. I feel passionately that this an issue worthy of working on continually.
The gift of books
For over the last 10 years we have a family tradition, that each child buys a book for each of their siblings. This means at Christmas time they receive at least four new books. While they are supposed to be a surprise, the kids always word each other up on what books they want. New books and books they want to read is a big part of getting some kids to even open a book in the first place.
The power of role modelling and peers
With all of them having new books to read their is a big chance that at some point one of the five kids will be reading across the day. There is great power in this. One child we see another child reading and will often grab a book and read nearby them.
I also make sure summertime is a time I read a few books too. With kids I find they can be influenced so much more by what they see rather than what they are told to do.
Read the same books as the kids
It is always great to be able to discuss a book with someone else as you are reading it or after you finish it (exactly the reason book groups are so popular). With the older kids I will try and read at least one book that they are reading over the holidays.
Often this is a text they will have to read for school. Reading the school set texts at the same time as them, is a great way to keep them making their way through the book and then also be able to help them as they work on the book throughout the year.
Last summer our son in Year 12 and I had very robust discussions on Frankenstein. We had polar opposite views on the main character Victor Frankenstein. In the teenager years when you often can have monosyllabic responses from your kids, being able to discuss a book with them can be a great way to extend the conversation.
Visit the library regularly
We are year round library goers and this is one part of our routine that I keep during the summer holidays. Even if all the kids aren’t around to come I will ask them if they have any books they would like or just bring home some books I think they will like. They will all take a look at what has beeb brought home and very often take one away to read.
Don’t be a book snob
I want the kids to have a love of reading and enjoy reading for pleasure. For this to happen I cannot afford to be a book snob and criticise their reading choices or insist they read certain books.
I can make suggestions on books and encourage them to mix up the genre they read from, but I really just leave it to them. I would rather they happily read a book of their choice, then read a book with resentment because they have been forced to.
Informal reading sessions
One summer I tried to have a reading session across most days, where I would tell everyone to go off, grab a book and start reading. While it worked some days, some days it just caused issues. I think formal reading sessions can work depending on the kids ages and personalities, but for us now I go for informal reading sessions.
We have a rule that you can only read at the table at non dinner time meals and you must ask others present if it is okay for them to read. With everyone rising at different times, breakfast, morning tea and lunch can all be eaten at different times by the kids, but most afternoons we will still have a shared afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea provides us a great opportunity to have an informal reading session. Our 10 year old is an avid reader so he will usually bring a book and ask if it is okay to read. I will do the same and before you know it, those present will all have a book and be reading!
Allow time and space for reading
It can be tempting to have the days of the summer break all planned out for the kids to prevent boredom and fighting, but I think kids need to reach the point of boredom and have to work out ways to entertain and amuse themselves. Where I can, I plan to have a number of days at home each week which are unstructured and left for the kids to work out what they will do.
Slowing the pace down and not rushing from one thing to the next allows both the time and space for reading.
A technology free day once a week
I will add the disclaimer that this is only for the younger three. As much as I would love the 15 and 18 year old to have a technology free day, it isn’t a battle I choose to take on with them.
By having one day a week where there is no technology or TV at all, I find the kids naturally through out the day pick up a book and start reading.