Friday, June 15, 2018

Summer Reading: Let The Kids Read What They Want

School’s out!

But you’ve got a long summer reading list.

This summer, what’s the best thing you can let your child do? Let them read WHATEVER they want to. (Within reason, of course--I’m not advocating that you let your child read Crime and Punishment or anything that’s not age-appropriate).

So, let me say it again. Let them read WHATEVER they want to.

I can already hear you.

“Oh, but he won’t read that. It’s too many pages.”
“She only likes horse books.”
“But does it have AR points?”
“I want her to stop reading graphic novels.”
“I’m tired of Captain Underpants.”

Let me stop you right there.

The other thing you say is, “I just want my child to be a better reader,” or “I just want my child to love reading.”

Make summer reading fun again by letting your child choose what they want to read. When they choose what they read, reading becomes a normal part of your child’s day, so when they have to read a book required for school, it isn’t so much of a chore.

In a study done by Scholastic, this graph shows the percentage of children who read a book of their choice, non-fiction or fiction, independently in school. As you can see in the last section, “I don’t do this at all,” 61% of students aged 15-17 do not read a book of their choice during school.

Percentage of Children Who Read A Book of Their Choice Independently In School 

From a study Scholastic did on reading books for fun:

“The majority of kids ages 6–17 agree “it is very important for their future to be a good reader” (86%) and about six in ten kids love or like reading books for fun (58%), a steady percentage since 2010.”

And in the same study, here’s what Scholastic discovered about the percentage of children who have trouble finding books they like to read:

“Parents underestimate the degree to which children have trouble finding books they like. Only 29% of parents agree “my child has trouble finding books he/she likes,” whereas 41% of kids agree this is a challenge—this percentage of kids increases to 57% among infrequent readers vs. 26% of frequent readers.”

From all of this information, we can see that:

  1. It’s hard for children to find time to read a book OF THEIR CHOICE independently during the school year.
  2. Making time to read a book of choice is even more difficult the older the child gets.
  3. About half of children have trouble finding books they like. This can lead to negative attitudes towards reading. Or, the child will just stop reading entirely, except when they are required to read for school.

So, how do we help a child find what they like to read? By giving them choices, and not limiting those choices. After all, there is no such thing as “too much reading.” If there is a graphic novel series with 100 books in the series, and your child loves that series, let them read the entire series. You can’t buy the entire series? There are libraries made for that specific purpose. Get a library card with your child this summer, and make it an adventure.

If the book is a non-fiction sports’ facts book with a lot of glossy pictures, such as “Scholastic Year in Sports 2018,” let them read that book. If your child will only sit down with magazines, then get them more magazines to read. And if the book does not have horses? By talking to your librarian or bookseller, chances are, they can recommend similar books. That’s what they’re trained to do.

This summer, I’m encouraging you: forget about the points, forget about whether it is “on reading level,” and don’t worry if it looks like the only thing your child will read for the rest of his life are comic books. Maybe that’s all they’ll read for the rest of the summer, but guess what? It will set them on the path to being a reader for the rest of their life.

Oh, and as for Captain Underpants? The author of that series, Dav Pilkey, is one of the biggest advocates of children reading for fun. This past April I was fortunate enough to attend the Fay B. Kaigler Children's Book Festival, where Pilkey was awarded the 2018 Southern Miss Medallion. He spoke about his own struggles with dyslexia as a young reader and how his librarian's criteria for "great literature" limited a lot of children's literature (see image below). Pilkey now writes books that are 220 pages long, are full of illustrations, and are inspired by great literature (i.e., Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas).

As a Dav Pilkey says, “Reading Gives You Superpowers,” and I couldn’t agree more.  

Dav's School Librarian's Criteria for Acceptable Literature: "Title Must NOT Contain the words MAD and/or Magazine"
Dav Pilkey's Criteria for Great Literature: "Subject Matter Must Be Cool" 

Visit or for more book suggestions for your child and resources for parents. Visit your local bookstore or library for suggestions and let librarians and booksellers help your child find a book they want to read this summer.

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