At the start of each summer, I gleefully create a 'summer reading list' for myself composed of light summer fiction, professional reads I never got to during the year, and at least one biography of a historic figure, usually a past president.
For older children, often they head into those first days of summer with a reading list from school and frequently a looser list from parents who want to ensure summer reading includes some comprehension challenge or perhaps passing on a favorite from their own childhood. Even our young children, who are used to being read to regularly, probably see an uptick in book exposure during the summer months due to parent vacation schedules and a slower pace, in general, compared to the rest of the year.
These trends are all positive as any reading is a gift - it helps develop literary skills, opens new worlds to us, and is usually a restful, peaceful retreat from the world around us. However, it's important, among those readings already selected, to include space for children to make their own book selections.
How many of us remember what it was like to be a kid in your local library? Carefully selecting books whose covers appealed and attracted, skimming pages, looking for that particular book a friend talked about, or just meandering through the book rows observing the quiet readers and browsers and breathing in that book smell mixed with heavy air-conditioned effect all added to the allure of self-selected reading.
Infant and Toddler Reading
Recently a colleague shared a video of her young toddler son 'reading 'aloud to himself 'The Hungry Caterpillar'. Believe it or not, toddlers and even older infants are actually ready to do some selection of books for themselves and it's helpful to assemble a reading corner in their bedroom or another room in your home designed in the Montessori fashion, with tantalizing materials for them to explore in a safe setting just their size. Being read aloud to is great to. If done with love, animation, and frequency, it develops language, caregiver bonding, and a very sensorial experience with non-virtual books.
Primary age children need little help imagining and wondering or finding a reason to chatter away about what they're experiencing. Selecting a book that calls to them anchors that natural curiosity for a few blissful moments of focused concentration and a very personal relationship with the content and characters. When my son was this age, his little library was in his small walk-in closet and I used to find him in there, half-dressed, having what I can only describe as a 'conversation' with a book. Precious moments, indeed. This is a great age to share the books you enjoyed at that age; Primary age children love hearing about what mamma or papa did and liked when they were little and a shared book opens the door for conversations about stories, characters, and facts galore. Another idea for this age is to explore a book together about the natural world and then go out and use that knowledge to investigate, observe, and awe at the living creatures in your own backyard or area. Remember, Primary-aged children like to 'do it themselves' and book selection is no exception!
With our summer program underway, I recently watched an elementary-aged boy walk in to school with his nose 'stuck in a book' as we often say. He was so engrossed he hardly noticed when I opened the door for him and greeted him. Such concentration! Such enjoyment. To the elementary student, the world is opening up! Non-fiction books appeal, particularly on subjects they have developed a new fascination for. They may already have a favorite series or character they want to continue following now that summer allows for free time. Instead of sharing a favorite of yours with your child, this is a great age to ask them to share a favorite with you! Whether you popcorn read or read in parallel, the opportunities for sharing a love and a conversation are endless.
Middle School Reading
Parents sometimes lament that during these years, their habit of reading together or to their child shows signs of ending, at the child's apparent disinterest. Yet if you are persistent, flexible, and adaptable, you can find a new way to share literature. A parent at this year's end of year picnic told me that their family has a tradition of picking out and listening to a book on audio during their long drive to Maine each summer. What a clever way to connect together instead of into our own devices on a family car ride! With pre-adolescents, they won't be shy in telling you what they think and certainly will expect to have a say in any 'new' tradition you begin, but isn't it great our children at this age are learning who they are, their tastes, and how to convey their preferences. Besides, a quiet audio book shared is often a needed respite from overly-animated drama in many a pre-teen conversation!
For the parents, we're just lucky if we get one or two of our summer selects finished by Labor Day. At least that's how my summer usually ends; my pile of summer picks wait patiently for a crisp fall day when I can get back to them again. In this month's Mindprint Learning blog, there is a reading on the year's most important k-12 education trends; always a parenting favorite to learn about, right?! If you have the time, check out this link to learn more:
Resources for summer reading:
(though remember to allow them some choice!)