Children who fail to read regularly during long breaks from school will often see their reading ability drop. This is termed the “summer slide”.
Socio-economic status can be a factor – if a child’s household has fewer books to read, then they will have fewer authentic reading opportunities.
But those children who keep up their reading over the summer break are likely to see improvements in in their reading abilities, both in terms of what books they read and how often they interact with these texts.
Some methods of keeping kids engaged in reading are more effective than others.
For example, choosing a book that the child will simply enjoy or find entertaining, rather than treating it as a learning exercise, will more likely keep them interested in reading.
Here are some other ways to help your child enjoy reading over the summer break:
Think of books that will interest your child
Novelty books that incorporate fun into reading are a great way to engage younger readers with useful book-handling behaviours.
Books with interactive aspects such as pop-up displays, lift-up flaps and tactile elements are much more likely to immerse children, and sway them from the notion that “reading books is boring”.
Encouraging children to seek out books based on popular film and television programs is also a great way to extend their interests beyond watching the screen.
After reading parts of these books together, you can discuss with your child how the story varies between the visual and print versions and ask them which they prefer.
Use technology to engage and assist
Reading isn’t just limited to print books alone. Encouraging children to read books on electronic devices can be a way to engage otherwise reluctant children with reading.
Not only are these electronic copies often cheaper than hard-copy books, they also provide other useful features, such as reducing the “hard book” feeling for reluctant readers. Many reluctant readers feel anxious about reading thick books with small print. The eBook removes this as a concern as children can adjust the size of the font with ease and the physical size of the book is no longer a concern. Teachers are already embracing these features in their classrooms to provide engaging and useful reading experiences.
Researchers have demonstrated that struggling readers benefit from the additional features that eReaders provide, such as text to speech, where the eReader will electronically read the text out loud to the reader. Functions such as these are very useful in helping to fill in the gaps in childen’s understanding when they are reading an unknown text.
Read with your child every day
Regular reading routines are essential to developing effective reading habits.
Set aside a time every day when you and your child can read together, and another time when you can discuss your favourite parts of the book.
If you are reading with your child and they come to a word that they don’t know or aren’t sure of, remember the following simple rules:
Wait: Give your child a chance to figure out the word on their own. Don’t be the instant word factory and supply the word – help your child to be a resourceful reader by allowing them time to gather more information and clues.
Ask: Does that make sense? Does the picture give you a clue? Could you read on for more information? Asking these questions reminds your child of the different strategies they can use to figure out what the text is saying.
Then: If the child is still stuck on that word, ask them to skip it and read on. You can always drop that word into the conversation as you turn the page. This supplies the unknown word and has the added advantage of not shaming the child for being wrong.
One of the best gifts that you can give your child over the festive season is to spend time with them finding, sharing and exploring exciting books.
Ryan Spencer is the ACT State Director of the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (ALEA).