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7 Ways to Prevent Summer Reading Slide

June 02, 2011
by Shannon Firth
Kids who don’t read in summer are likely to fall behind when school resumes, and these losses summer after summer are cumulative, say experts. Here are seven suggestions to encourage strong reading habits in the summer months, and for years to come.

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“All young people are at risk of experiencing some kind of educational setback during the summer months,” said Ron Fairchild executive director of the National Summer Learning Program at John Hopkins University during a Reading Rockets webcast

Kids who aren’t reading, can stand to lose over two months of reading achievement, and those living in poorer neighborhoods seem to be most at risk. “These early differences in summer learning really account for a staggering amount of the growth in the achievement gap between kids based on income,” according to Fairchild.

Because you want kids to develop a passion for reading on their own, it’s important for parents not to make reading a chore. “Figuring out ways to really take what your children are expressing as their interests and then connecting them to resources in their community is the most important thing that parents can keep in mind,” says Fairchild.

1. Seek out Summer Reading Programs

“Over 95 percent of public libraries have summer reading programs,” said Dr. Loriene Roy, the outgoing American Library Association President, in the same Reading Rockets webcast. For example, at the San Jose Public Library in California, kids earn a sand dollar for every five books they read this summer. These sand dollars can be exchanged for prizes.

And as part of Scholastic Summer Challenge, kids log their reading minutes and compete to become one of the top 20 schools in the Scholastic Book of World Records. Barnes & Noble’s summer reading program invites kids to read eight books of their choice, track them on their reading passports and earn a free book.

Contact your local library or bookstore to see if it has a similar summer reading program.

2. Get Published Online! Write a Review or Create a Blog

Encourage your child to reflect on the books she is reading. Many libraries have blogs where students can comment on books.

Kids can follow the example of McKenzie over at The Book Owl and suggest your kids start their own blog. Her blog is so popular, published authors send requests asking her to review their books, and she’s only a sophomore in high school!

3. Get to Know Favorite Authors Online

Scholastic hosts live chats each month where kids can ask questions of their favorite authors. Sign up for reminder emails from Scholastic. You can also read transcripts of previous chats.

The Readergirlz Web site also hosts live chats each month. The site boasts video interviews and captures authors’ playful personalities with goofy Q&A profiles. Featured authors also create playlists to accompany their novels.

Another site for video interviews is BookWrap, though videos not accessible to Macs at this time.

You can also find video interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators on Reading Rockets. Many authors also have their own websites where they post interviews and sometimes even book tour schedules.

4. Read the Book (or Comic), Then See The Movie

Several recent film releases were based on either classic books or new novels. Within the last 18 months “Where The Wild Things Are,” “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” were all released into theaters.

Publishers Weekly recently highlighted three comic books that have been adapted to films: “Iron Man II,” “The Last Airbender” and “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.”

Bookreporter.com offers an extensive movie calendar of past and future “book into movie” releases. Kidsreads also offers book to movie synopses for younger audiences that are likely now available on DVD from your library or video store.

5. Start Your Own Book Club

Book clubs can be a fun and social way for kids to engage with books. If your kids are excited by the idea, ask them to contact a few friends that also like to read. Each friend your child invites can invite another friend of his or her own. According to Kidsreads, the ideal book club size is about eight to 12 readers.

Kids and teens can choose a genre, vote on reading selections, or let each participant choose a book when it’s her turn. Mature teens and tweens can find reviews, book trailers, and discussion of the latest Young Adult books on Teenreads. The Teenreads Ultimate Reading List is also worth browsing. Guyslitwire and Readergirlz target teen boys and girl readers, respectively.

Next, decide on the frequency and dates of meetings and appoint a secretary to send out reminders. To prepare for meetings, kids can research the selected author online and locate readers’ guides, often found on the publisher’s website.

Kidsread offers lists of “classics” and “new favorites” organized by age group. For more recent books take a look at findingDulcinea’s 5 Books for Middle School Readers and 5 Books for Mature Young Adults.

6. Get creative! Write a Letter; Make a Book Trailer, Video Review or Pop-Up Book

Kids of any age can write a letter to an author. Use the publisher’s address found in the first few pages of the hardcover edition of a book, explain author Mary Amato in Reading Rockets. Kidsread.com offers a database of addresses for popular authors.

Using Animoto, kids can transform simple slideshows into movies. Jeri Hurd, a teacher who blogs at Bib 2.0, tested the site with his seventh grade students and offered some suggestions on finding free photos and music, and a few quirks he noticed with the tool.

Video book reviews are another great way to engage with the content of a story. Meet Me At the Corner, a website from Nick Jr. Boost, invites readers to send in their review tapes But “don’t give away the ending!” reminds Emma in a short video tutorial that explains how to make a review.

And for kids who love art, why not help them make a pop-up book? Robert Sabudo has printable design pages for DIY Pop-up animals, monsters, and even a Pop-up Oz.
For more inspiration, take a peek inside the Pop-up Studio in a vimeo clip featuring Matthew Reinhart and Robert Sabudo’s studio.
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