Kids’ Summer Reading — It’s a Wrap

Or it should be by now — if not, here's emergency help

A problem that pops up every August has many parents nagging, reminding, and deal-making their way through the waning days of summer. It has to do with kids’ summer reading — and getting them to finish it.

“My kids have even told me their teachers ‘understand how busy’ their summer is, and give them extra time after school starts to complete the reading — if you can believe that,” said one Washington state father of two. “Next they’ll have some swampland in Florida they will try to sell me.”

Read what your teen is reading — and have a conversation about it.

Eric Donaghey of Reading, Massachusetts, told LifeZette he uses “mild” threats to get his four kids to read. “I tell the boys no hockey if they don’t do their reading — or I ground them,” he said. “One or the other usually does the trick.”

Summer reading — those mandatory books, packets, or printouts that are assigned to maintain reading skills and prepare students for the upcoming school year — is not as painful as kids might think, once they get in the groove. And with an understanding of how to approach reading according to a child’s age, it becomes that much easier.

Literacy advocate Jen Robinson of San Jose, California, advises reading aloud to elementary school-age kids — long after kids can read on their own. “Kids who are read to even after they can read on their own are more likely to continue to enjoy reading as they get older,” she told TIME magazine. And “reading together gives families a common vocabulary, and a springboard for all kinds of interesting discussions.”

[lz_bulleted_list title=”Classic Books for High Schoolers” source=””]Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky|Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes|To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee|The Crucible by Arthur Miller|Night by Elie Wiesel|Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte|The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck|Beowulf|The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas|Great Expectations by Charles Dickens|[/lz_bulleted_list]

Incredibly, however, some schools now offer incentives for kids to crack the books — and pricey ones at that. “Our school purchased bikes to be given away in a drawing for those who completed their summer reading packets,” said New Mexico elementary school teacher Suzy Burris. “In addition to this, we got coupons from local restaurants to give away.”

But the type of reading assigned to kids is critical, said Burris. “Whatever the teacher is thinking of assigning over the summer for reading, it needs to be more than drill or skill sheets. [Those are] too monotonous for kids who would rather be playing, swimming, or just napping. They’ll finish on time something that lights their imaginations on fire.”

For middle-school kids, it’s all about modeling good reading habits. Reading with your kids is key, Andrew Medlar, president of the American Library Service to Children, told TIME, adding, “Aspirational reading is very big.”

Children at the middle-school age “want to be grown up, and be perceived as grown up, and learn about what the teen and grown-up world is all about,” said Medlar. So read what your teen is reading — and have a conversation about it.

Related: A Chapter a Day Keeps the Doc Away

“One of the most meaningful experiences I ever had with my middle son was reading a book called ‘The Dustbowl’ when he was in middle school,” said one Boston mom. “I cried over the ending, and we had such a great conversation. I felt we really connected, and I learned how thorough his comprehension really was.”

For high school students, remember to teach that even with all the mandatory reading they are assigned, pleasure reading is important — and can be a valued and lifelong pursuit.

Children must also be taught that reading opens up big swaths of the world to them. As Mark Twain once said, “A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.”

meet the author

Deirdre Reilly is a senior editor for LifeZette.