Dive into reading this summer

July 11, 2005|by ROSE RENNEKAMP

What's one of the best ways to prepare for college? Read, read, then read some more. So when you begin to hear the rising chorus of "I'm bored" this summer, here are a few ideas to help you nurture your teenager's love of reading and get his eyes away from the TV or computer screen.

Start by setting a good example. Turn off the TV and read a book that you enjoy. Read the newspaper and point out articles of interest to young people. When teens see their parents reading, they see that it's not always the drudgery of reading a 600-page novel assigned for an English class. They see that reading is something people actually do for pleasure and to stay up-to-date on important events.

Many public libraries offer summer reading programs for all ages of young people, and some even offer them for adults. My local library offers prizes and parties for readers who meet certain reading goals. If your library doesn't offer a program, check online for a library that does or create your own incentive program at home.


Check out what movies are coming out in the next few months. See if any of them are adapted from books. Then suggest reading the book together before heading to the theater to catch it on the big screen. This summer, you can catch The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Or, if your son is into Star Wars, there are plenty of novels based on the movies.

When The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy comes out on video, rent it and surprise him with a paperback copy of the book. You can also do that for some of your favorites already lining the video store shelves. There are the classics, like Gone with the Wind or To Kill a Mockingbird, or something you may not expect, like Shrek. For a detailed list of movies based on books check out the Web site:

Some students have particular interests that can create a love for reading. I work with a man who was so inspired by the movie Houdini that even at age 11 he read every book about the legendary magician that he could get his hands on. Does your child or teenager have a unique interest that is covered by some good biographies or "how-to" books?

If you're planning to take a trip by car this summer, an enjoyable audio book can make the drive go faster and stimulate an appreciation for books. Don't choose all fiction. There are many nonfiction books with topics that interest teens to listen to and talk about along the way.

Some parents get their children to read the books in exchange for a trip to see the site. A trip to the Mississippi River is a great climax to reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. One couple I know encouraged their children to read about a foreign country and study the language, with the reward being a trip to that country the following summer. That's beyond my budget, but it's a great idea.

Remember, too, that reading isn't just about books. Encourage your children to read magazines. Leave a few you think might be a hit laying around and pay attention to which magazines disappear, then subscribe to the magazine as a gift. (I left two recent magazines, with articles about Microsoft's new X Box in the kitchen table when I left for work this morning.)

Your public library is a great place to start, but you can get more information about activities for all ages on the Reading Is Fundamental website at

Both of my kids love reading. I think that the trips we took early and often to the library, and the time we spent reading together when they were younger made a big impact. It's never too late to find a love of reading, and summer is the perfect time to get started. The books that are required during the school year can sit on the shelf for a few months while students dive in to subjects they really want to read about.

Rose Rennekamp is the vice president of communications for ACT. Have a question you want answered in a future column? Send an e-mail to

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