Photos by Wonderland and by John-Morgan (above)
Article by Diane L. Wojtowicz

180 days (or 1, 098 hours) ... Ahh ... the magic numbers. The number from which the countdown to summer begins after Labor Day until the end of the school year.  For those 180 days, students are confronted with text ... in other words, READING! Whether it be in Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, Math, Band, Computers, Art, or  Wood Shop—the students are reading. (I heard through the grapevine they sometimes even have to read in Physical Education!) Let's not even talk about homework. In addition to other  homework, every Reading teacher I know encourages students to read at least half an hour a day when they get home from school. Some schools even participate in programs like Accelerated Reader to encourage independent reading through out the school year.

But what happens when summer comes?  Slogans like "Read to Success" and "Readers are Leaders" often take a back seat to "Fun in the Sun" or roasting marshmallows and weenies over the campfire. Does it have to be so polarized? Is it possible to find time for reading between video games on rainy days and afternoons at grandma's house? Just like anything we do, practice makes perfect. When you stop trying, the progress not only comes to a halt, but sometimes we lose it altogether. Anyone, who has ever put a tremendous effort into dieting and stops for an indiscriminate period of time to dive into cheeseburgers and sundaes can attest to this phenomenon. So what happens when kids stop reading over the summer, after 180 days of sustained effort? Of course, their reading level will either stay the same or regress by the time they return to school.  Now, I don't know many people who are fans of schooling all year round, but to keep our "Fun in the Sun" sacred to American education, we must find the time to keep our kids reading throughout the summer months. Here are a few simple suggestions to keep your children engaged in reading after a cut throat game of Marco Polo in the neighbor's pool: 

  1. Go ... Go ... Garage Sales! Take advantage of this summertime American tradition. As an educator, most of my classroom library contains great finds for a quarter at garage sales. When kids pass an age of interest or need to make room for more books, gems are put to the curb at an affordable price. Let's face it—your kids always want something from a garage sale. Before you get out of the car, tell them you'll give them a dollar, but only if $.50 is spent on books. Make sure you check out the book yourself. Have them read the back to you to make sure it is within their reading level. (If they struggle on more than five words, they may be reading at a frustrational level. Have them choose something more appropriate that they can read independently.) Praise your children and show interest in what they choose. Be sure to follow up with them. Ask them how the book is going before they fall asleep at night. 
  1. The Glove Shove:  It's time to clean out your glove box and make room for a book.  Keep a book handy in your car for your child during summertime travel. Those long hours going up north could be spent with their nose in a book instead of playing their Nintendo DS. Okay kids, I understand that doesn't sound very reasonable. Try making a deal instead. For every fifteen minutes on the DS, fifteen minutes should be spent reading a book. For kids that get car sick or sleepy reading while driving, this may not be the best option. Instead, turn off the radio and make use of the text all around you as you drive. Play the ABC game with billboards. (Identify words that start with each letter of the alphabet until you get to Z ... work together as a team.) For younger children, look for colors and shapes.
  1. Movie Time!  Whoever said you can't read a book just because you've seen the movie?  Most movies are made from books! In fact, you will find that most of your favorite movies began with a book that have been adapted and directed to meet the traditional two hour movie requirement. This is a great opportunity to get your child analyzing what they read. Try reading a book together every night for fifteen minutes before you go to bed. Take turns reading. Once you finish, rent the movie and have a movie night! Do it up by making popcorn and turning off the lights. Make the reward special. Even if you've already seen the movie, it doesn't matter ... as long as you're reading the book too! This is actually a great strategy if your child struggles with reading. If they've seen the movie before hand, they will have what educators call "prior knowledge" to help decode words and facilitate their comprehension. Don't forget to take the time to talk about how the book and movie were  alike and different. ( features a list of books that have been turned into movies. Tip for parents: You can usually judge the reading level of a book by the age of the main character. Some examples include: Hotel for Dogsby Lois Duncan, Nim's Island by Wendy Orr, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.  
  1. Make the Most:  Words are all around you. They're on the cereal box, bottles of cleaning solution, the drive-thru, and all over the grocery store. You can make a reading game out of any any situation ... from cleaning the house to going grocery shopping. For example, let's say you really need to go to the store, but you are saving the sitter money for a night out? Instead of your kids piling up the cart with unnecessary items ... play a game!  Give them a piece of paper and a pencil. Have them write down words they've never seen before and make a guess at their definition. When you get home, look them up in the dictionary or on  Reward them for their efforts by giving them that candy bar or box of Lucky Charms for which they had been begging. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids that they must earn what their heart desires, instead of expecting that it is given to them. You'll be surprised to see the words they discover that even you have never seen before! 
  1. Summer Reading Programs:  Your local library is most likely sponsoring a summer reading program. Be sure to check in with your local library for a calendar of events. This is a great opportunity for reading enrichment, a chance for your child to discover that reading can be fun— especially without the pressure of a grade attached to it. Also, summer reading programs are are an awesome opportunity for both parents and kids to meet new friends!  Most of the area public libraries already kicked off their summer reading program, but it's not too late to get involved ... you can visit Bay City's calendar of events on their website at Or, check out the opportunities available in Midland County for all ages at Saginaw County had 9,700 participants last year and is hoping for more in 2010: Visit srp2010.html "Make a Splash" program.

As you can see, summer reading can be entertaining and can actually fill in some of those gaps in time that seem trivial and boring. Reading is a part of everyday life, and it is important that your child realizes reading isn't just about the grade. Reading is fun, and certainly is everywhere we look ... from the movie store to the fast food menu. So, make the most out of your summer days by finding opportunities for reading wherever you are. Always reward your child for their discoveries.

© Diane L. Wojtowicz, 2010