The summer reading list has been sent home, and with it, a clear expectation: On days when the thermometer reads 90 degrees and Snowballs and sprinklers sound more of a siren call than wizards and spies, your child needs to pick up a book and read.
It can be daunting, admits Tuere Ganges, a 12th grade English teacher at Friendship Academy of Engineering and Technology in Baltimore and a parent herself. Her recommendation: Hit the library or book store for a series of books, and not just one that your child can put down (or lose) at any time.
“It’s like binge watching a television series,” Ganges says. “They are more likely to continue reading to see what happens next.”
The parent-child book club
Lead by example, Ganges also suggests: “If you’re reading, they can see a way to relax without their cell phones.”
When her daughter had to read Their Eyes Are Watching God before her 10th grade year at Baltimore City College, Ganges read it, too. It gave them something to talk about and her daughter was “more invested in it,” Ganges says.
Let your children know that reading is a family value, agrees John Scott, Lower School librarian at Friends School of Baltimore. When parents who are anxious about their children’s reading habits seek his advice, Scott always asks them the same question: “Do your kids see you reading?”
Taking 20 minutes each night to unplug and read together as a family. It’s a great way to tackle the summer reading list and have some coveted quiet time this summer, Scott says. And reading together, he believes, is a much better solution than incentives or bribes.
“Read with them. Read to them. Take turns reading back and forth,” he says.
Hear this good news—and a good book: Listening to audiobooks counts as reading, the librarians interviewed agreed. Some of Scott’s favorite reading moments with his children have been listening to audio books on the way to the pool. Sometimes the family became so engrossed in a story, there were those “driveway moments” when his children asked if they could take a longer drive.
Don’t object if kids read the same book over and over again, Scott says. And don’t criticize their choices. They may prefer Captain Underpants to The Wind in the Willows.
“Give them lots of choices so they can be in charge of what they are choosing,” Scott says.
Here’s another big don’t: Don’t make reading a chore.
“Please don’t’ say, ‘First you have to read for 15 minutes and then we can go to the pool.’ That’s a reading joy killer,” says Karen Gildea Pavelka, library media specialist at Martin Boulevard Elementary School in Middle River.
The school is not near a local library branch, so for the past 14 years the school library has been open one day a week in the summer to serve students and their families. That’s a big way Pavelka works to build excitement about reading, she says.
One of Pavelka’s favorite moments as a librarian was when students wrote her letters, lobbying to be the first one to check out a new book about Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. Instead of making reading a task to check off, she says, help your children find books they like, like the Flacco biography.
“That excitement—if you as parents build it, that will be something you can spread,” she says.
So, what will these teachers and librarians be reading this summer themselves? Scott has a “full tote bag” of books to catch up on and Ganges plans on taking her own advice. She will be reading L.A. Banks’ popular Vampire Huntress Legend series, keeping up with a former student who is one book ahead of her.
“It’s so depressing, that blank page at the end,” Ganges said. “I like a series to devour.”
What’s it like to be a judge for the Newbery Award? Read about librarian John Scott’s turn on a Newbery selection committee.