Remember sing-songing that old rhyme, “No more pencils, no more books!” on the last day of school when you were a kid? Back then, the idea of three whole months without schoolbooks may have sounded like bliss, but now, we know all about “summer reading loss.” Also called “summer learning loss,” that decline in reading skills that happens from June through September can set kids back by roughly one month of school year learning.
Of course, a summer reading plan can help your kid by offsetting that loss, but there also are plenty of other great reasons to read with your child over summer break. In HelloJoey’s “Reading Begins with a ‘We,’” we look at how reading can boost your kid’s confidence, help them find their place in the world, and prep their brain for better learning once school begins again. We also share ways to help struggling readers and offer creative ideas to make reading fun to get kids excited about stories all summer long.
Build confidence with a love for reading
If your child has trouble with reading or just doesn’t really like to do it, summer can be a great time to flip that switch and try to reshape their attitude. When kids struggle, they often avoid things that are more difficult because they believe there’s no point in trying – but if they practice and get better, that mindset can shift over time. Making reading more fun may be easier over the summer than during the school year, when there’s no required reading, pressure or expectation involved.
The ultimate goal is to help your child develop a true love for reading so that they’re motivated to do it on their own – and you can help them get there by building your summer reading plan around whatever they love. If your child is taking equestrian lessons, buy a few books in the “Pony Club Rivals” series; if they’re constantly shooting hoops, surprise them with Steph Curry’s “The Boy Who Never Gave Up.” Presenting reading as a fun way to learn about their interests can help kids get excited to try it – and the more they do it, the better they’ll get.
It might take a little time before your child starts reading easily or voluntarily, but try not to focus on any specific goals or benchmarks. Instead, celebrate the small victories. Whether your book-hater reads every single baseball score or your literary genius finishes their fifth book in a month, let them know you’re proud of their effort. When kids feel encouraged instead of pushed, they’re motivated to keep trying, and one win leads to another as they start to feel more confident and successful.
Help your kid find their place
Every child struggles with fitting in from time to time, and school can be a lonely place if your kid has interests that are a little unusual, is part of a minority, or just has trouble making friends. The good news is that summer reading may be a way to help your child feel less alone. Books can be mirrors that reflect your child or windows that reveal different worlds, both of which can make your kid feel a little more connected.
Stories have the power to show us the beauty in ourselves and to let us see the beauty in others and their worlds. With diverse characters like Dora the Explorer and Doc McStuffins, more and more kids are seeing themselves in the stories they read – which can help them feel good who they are and empower them to find where they fit in the world. It can also put them into the shoes of others who are different – in looks, beliefs, or background – which helps to build empathy as they see (and sometimes even feel) a new perspective.
As an added bonus, that empathy may wind up bolstering your child’s social support system. While reading is often a solo activity or something you do one on one with your child, one study found that people who read fiction tend to have more social support than those who don’t. Because reading helps us see the world from perspectives that are different from our own, we can get better at imagining what someone else might be thinking. By reading over the summer, you can help your child feel like they belong – and learn how to help others feel that way, too.
Get their brains ready for better learning
If you’re already thinking there’s no way you’re going to get your kid to sit down with a book this summer, take heart! Research has shown that there’s also plenty of benefit to simply sharing stories. Making up those ghoulish tales around the campfire, sending a postcard about the snorkeling adventure your family took, or even sharing a text and photo of that pool party all count; the magic of story-sharing is in simply connecting with others.
That connection can increase reading comprehension and help kids grow both socially and emotionally. “We're talking about things like recognizing and managing your own emotions, being able to resist impulses, and knowing yourself – or having self-awareness and emotional intelligence,” explains psychotherapist and author Heather Turgeon. “It also includes things like planning and thinking ahead, being able to focus on the moment, and paying attention.” Of course, those are exactly the skills that can help your child succeed at school.
If your kid has trouble with reading and has been falling behind at school, summer is a great time to help them sharpen their skills and get caught up. Options like summer school, reading tutors, or even camps for readers are great, but there also are other resources available to help your child become more comfortable with reading. These are just a few suggestions from the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity for how parents can help struggling readers:
Notice your child’s strengths. Build their confidence in any way you can.
Share your own difficulties with your kid. Let your child know how you may have struggled – with anything, not just reading – and tell them how you worked through it.
Read aloud to your child (or listen to an audio book together). Even kids who don’t want to sit and look at a story may enjoy listening to one.
Take it slowly. Reading isn’t a race, and it’s okay to let your child go at their own pace.
Teach your child how to help themselves. If your child learns in a different way, such as dyslexia, they’ll be more confident and successful if they know what they need and how to ask for help.
Want to learn more about “Reading Starts with a ‘We?’” Start your path to a solid parenting foundation in just 10 minutes a day. Check out the HelloJoey app.