How to Get Kids to Want to Do Their Summer Reading

Guest post by Alicia Wieser, Founder of The Parenting Journal

The best thing you can do for your child this summer? Engage him or her in reading activities voluntarily.

A new study, reviewed by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, shows that more than summer camps and traveling, reading and writing at home over the summer are the best ways to improve your child’s future academic success. Furthermore, the study demonstrates that it is critical that your child participate in these reading activities at his or own will in order to reap the benefits of improved academic success.

The research covered a study of over 4000 children ages four to seven years of age and how their different summer activities impacted literacy and math scores. The study analyzes “how various summer activities, such as attending camp, reading and talking about math at home, vacations and day trips, and summer school, have distinct academic effects.”

The result? “Time spent at home, reading independently or talking about books and stories with parents, seems to have a greater influence on children’s academic growth than summer camps or vacations,” writes Leah Shafer in her review of the study in Harvard’s Graduate School of Education’s publication.

But that is not the only key takeaway. The other significant finding, Shafer notes, is “Tutoring and attending summer school was associated with lower scores in the fall.” This research suggests that when we force children to learn, or put them in programs against their own volition, we are hurting their future academic success. “At the very least, for academically focused opportunities to be effective,” Shafer continues, “they need to be voluntary, rather than compulsory activities such as summer school or tutoring.”

How do we get our children to engage in reading and writing voluntarily? We need to find books, stories and activities that intersect with their interests.

Tim Ferriss bestselling author on human behavior, has studied how to optimize teaching his whole career. When asked how he would set up his classroom, he said his first day of teaching young students would be full of fun exercises and building credibility. The whole point is getting his students to want to come back the next day. He says of teaching, “you need the patient to be willing to take the medicine.” If we are going to successfully engage our children in reading and writing this summer, this is what we as parents must do this summer with our children: find ways to get them “to be willing” to read and write.

My son is five years old and I met with my son’s head of kindergarten to discuss how to encourage my son to engage in hand strengthening activities to help develop his handwriting. He recommended lots of activities like legos, using scissors, and making bread. “Ultimately,” he said, “You have to find activities that interest him in order for him to engage them. Find themes that he likes, Paw Patrol, for example. Try to find activities to work on hand strength in that theme.”

I will be trying to meet my son’s interests this summer to engage him in reading and writing. We will be doing competitions (he loves competitions) and employing other themes in which he is interested to enlist him successfully in reading and writing. Unfortunately for me, one of my son’s biggest interests are bugs. Unfortunate because I cannot stand bugs! Eeek… Well, I will do what I have to do in order to find stories and activities this summer that meet his interests, even if it is a summer about bugs! Just, please no cockroaches….