Get Your Children Excited About Reading
By: Suzanne Pitner
How do you get your children excited about books when there's so much summer fun going on? You've got to let them know that reading is fun! Here are a few ideas.
- First and foremost, set aside a daily time for reading, when all you and your children do is read. It could be for as little as 15-20 minutes or for as long as you wish. You can read to your children, have your children read to you, or share in the reading. Don't let anything else take away from your daily reading time! You can give your reading time a special acronym. Ours is called DEAR, for "Drop Everything and Read". Some other ideas are SQUIRT, for "Sustained Quiet Un-Interrupted Reading Time", or WYRMS, for "When You Read Many Stories". Any acronym that your children like will work.
- Vividly illustrate the setting of each book you read together. Currently, my son and I are reading Stone Fox, by John Reynolds Gardiner. It 's a story about a young boy who enters a sled-dog race in an effort to help save his family's farm. To get a better idea of what the boy and the dog are doing as a team, we've set up sled-dog races in our backyard lawn. Tie a short rope to a plastic snow sled or a sturdy box with a plastic liner on the bottom. One child is the "dog", and one child is the rider in the sled. The "dog" has to pull the sled with the person on it across the lawn (it helps if the grass is wet). Next the children change places and do it again. We also drew a map of the race route and my son is tracing the location of the sled racers at different points in the story.
- Incorporate art projects into your reading. Some ideas are to let the children create a filmstrip of a book they just read, or design a new dust jacket for a book they enjoyed. If they are reading an adventure or travel book, creating a map of the areas in the book is fun to do.
- Play games to review books they've read. Making up your own Jeopardy-type game or Trivia-type game with prizes and rewards for correct questions and answers works well.
- Read a book, and then watch the movie of the same story. Talk about which one you liked better; the book or the movie. We just finished reading "The Witches", by Roald Dahl, a juicy, thrilling account of how a young boy and his grandmother outwit all the witches in the world. A few days after reading it, we watched the movie version, "Witches", with Angelica Huston acting as the Grand High Witch. It was great fun.
- Listen to a book on tape together. This is a good option if you spend a fair amount of time in the car with your children. However, although you can enjoy a good story together this way, it doesn't replace the daily actual reading practice that children need.
- Help your children pick books appropriate to their age and reading level. You'll see some short lists below with some additional links to reading lists on the Web.
- Set the example by letting your children see you reading for pleasure. Share the book you're reading with your kids, and let them know how much you're enjoying it. Children (like most people,) are intrigued when they see someone enjoying an activity, and they want to participate also.
Summer Reading Lists for Youths
These short lists are guides to books based on your child's level of reading. These are all books that have proved popular with children, as well as the adults who share the reading with them. Although many of the books have received literary awards, I chose them for my recommended reading lists primarily because my son and I enjoyed them so much. They've been read and reviewed by one of the most hard-to-please readers I know, my son!
These are children who are in the pre-literate to newly literate stage. They are learning about words, sounds, symbols, patterns, rhyming, and sequencing. Ages may be from 3 to 8, however, every child is different, so use your child's abilities to judge their level, rather than their age.
- Is Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino
- How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear, by Edward Lear (well loved rhymes)
- Camilla's New Hairdo, by Tricia Tusa (budding hairdressers love this one!)
- And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, by Theodore Geisel
- Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig (Caldecott Medal winner , 1970)
- Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak (Caldecott Medal winner, 1964)
These readers have learned how to read fairly well, can decode many unfamiliar words, and are ready to begin reading chapter books with fewer illustrations.
- Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Eleanor B. Coerr (include some origami work with this one)
- Shiloh, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Newbery Award winner, 1992)
- Sarah Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan (Newbery Award winner, 1986)
- Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary (Newbery Award winner, 1984)
- The Borrowers, by Mary Norton (also a movie)
These readers have advanced into chapter books and novels, and can read fluently. They still may need assistance in decoding words, understanding meanings and inflections, and in comprehension.
- The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks (also a movie)
- Holes, by Louis Sachar (Newbery Award winner, 2000)
- Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson (Newbery Award winner, 1978, also available on audio tape)
- From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg (Newbery Award winner, 1968)
- Bud, Not Buddy, by Christopher Paul Curtis (Newbery Award winner, 2000)
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl (also a movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)
- James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl (also a movie)
- The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster.
This next list is appropriate for older readers, age 13 and above.
- The Giver, by Louis Lowry (Newbery Award winner for the year 1994)
- To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
- The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien (great one to read before the movie comes out)
- Robots: I, Robot, The Robots of Dawn, and Robots and Empire, by Isaac Asimov
- Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
- Emma, by Jane Austen
Accelerated Reader Lists
The Accelerated Reader is a program now used in many schools which helps teachers and parents find age and level appropriate reading for their children, as well as testing the young readers for comprehension and understanding. There are more books to choose from than any child could ever read, and they are sorted by grade levels. To see what I mean, here's a link to an Accelerated Reader list at the Manchester Community Schools website. I like the way they have their list set up because it's easily sorted and searched. If you want more information on the Accelerated Reader program, a good place to start may be your local school.
More reading lists
Click on this link to get reading lists by genre as well as age groupings. While you're at the site, you'll find all kinds of activities to do with your kids this summer. I use this site all the time for information, resources, ideas, and lesson plans.