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Summer Reading Challenges - Make reading fun!

How many times have you heard your student tell you, "reading is just boring!" When I was growing up, I loved to read. Of course, I am old enough to remember the days when we didn't have internet or video games. I played Dungeons and Dragons when it first came out as a hardcover book series with cards and metal figures. For me, reading was an escape from the everyday schedule of school, chores, homework, etc. During the dog days of summer, I could curl up on the front porch with a good mystery or drama and be transported into another world. Reading still is a portal to experience other lands, lives, and loves. I feel that it connects me to the human experience. I have two teenage sons who will read, but it's not their favorite. They would rather spend hours and hours watching Youtube, streaming an endless supply of their favorite animated shows, or disappearing into their favorite video games. It seems like playing video games satisfies their need to experience new things and new places but at a more active, chaotic pace. I will admit I get queasy watching my boys fly around, destroying things, in Halo or Just Cause. I don't understand how they can think and move so quickly, responding to so many stimuli at one time. They think I'm just slow and "out of touch." So I get it when my students complain to me that reading is boring, passive, and dull. Our children are growing up in a world of constant motion, stimuli, and action. Sitting still to read a book really could be a Herculean effort because they literally physically and mentally cannot stand still. I still believe in the value of reading though, and I think about reading in a different way now in order to show my students that books can be fun. I have two major pointers to making summer reading more active and fun. 

1) Get out and read. Instead of focusing on what books to read, parents can change locations to read. One summer challenge I love doing with my students is not focused on the number of books but on where my students are reading. I have them keep track of different locations they have found to make reading more interesting or exciting. For example, one of my students discovered that it is really fun to read sitting in a tree. Another student takes her books to different spots in her favorite park and other interesting places in the community. I've even had students have their parents take pictures of them reading to dinosaurs in the Utah State National History Museum. Too cool! Encourage your student to grab a book or their backpack when you go out. I'm still waiting for a student to take a picture reading a book at Disneyland! 

2) Get rid of book logs and goal sheets. I believe that one of the reasons reading has become so onerous is that we treat it like a healthy eating challenge. Healthy eating is good, but no one likes to be forced to track how many servings of fruits and vegetables they eat every day. Reading should be an immersive, emotionally connective experience. If students are focused on a book goal, they are counting the number of pages they read or how many books they have to read rather than understanding how to enjoy the experience of the story. Some readers prefer audiobooks these days, and that is fine. I totally count that as reading. More audiobooks are being published with full-cast, immersive recordings that include cinematic music and sound effects that help cue readers into how to feel or react. I highly recommend getting a family Audible subscription. I also highly recommend graphic novels as well. I see a trend with strong visual learners who can use the illustrations in graphic novels to enhance their comprehension and connection to the stories, even classics like the Iliad, Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens'. 

3) Read more yourself. I cannot underestimate the power of modeling. When your student sees you reading, they are more likely to consider reading as an interesting activity. Even if you prefer reading ebooks on your phone or tablet, the more your student sees you reading, the more they file that activity as something good maybe they could try. As parents, our actions do speak much louder than our words. Even better, choose a time each day to read out loud with your children. I still do this with my teenagers. We're not reading Dr. Suess anymore, but when we read together at night, we do the voices, laugh, gasp, and most importantly, we talk about what we're reading. It becomes a social activity. I recommend the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books as great series for family reading sessions, but if you have littles, start with Dr. Suess or the Skippyjon Jones books. If you have teens, consider books that are relevant to them to help them understand society, culture, politics, etc. 

Reading doesn't have to be dull and boring, and you can find activities to make summer reading extremely engaging and fun. Please check out my website for more ideas. 

Dr. Jill Bartholomew, EdD
The Mad Wizard Tutor
Dr. Jill B
Certified, Experienced, Kind Academic Tutor
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
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