Simple steps help create lifelong readers

June 18, 2007|by ROSE RENNEKAMP

My daughter asked me the other day if I had read anything good lately. We discussed a few articles and books, and she promised to look up my recommendations. I don't know if she will end up reading what I suggested, but I know she will read something.

My daughter is a lifelong reader. My son is, too. And nothing makes me happier.

Reading is a priceless gift. In fact, honing one's reading skills is critical to success in school and the work force. Unfortunately, many students tend to fall out of practice when it comes to reading in the summer.

Multiple studies and numerous researchers urge parents not to let their children take a summer vacation from reading. According to the authors of a November 2002 report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Summer Learning, students who don't read during the summer will have to relearn some of their literary skills when school begins again.


"A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months, or roughly 22 percent of the school year," according to the report. Students of low-income families and those who already are struggling with reading are at greater risk.

However, the same research shows that students who read at least four books during summer vacation maintain or even increase their skills. The only trick is getting students to read. Luckily, it isn't as difficult as one might think.

1. Set the proper tone.

Turn off the television and read a book you enjoy. Read the newspaper and discuss its articles with your teens. Subscribe to magazines and leave them throughout your home to encourage reading anywhere at anytime. When students see their parents reading for fun - not because they have to - they're more apt to read for pleasure, too.

2. Visit the library.

Many public libraries offer summer reading programs for all ages. Some even offer them for adults. My local library offers prizes and parties for readers who meet set 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.

3. Expand your family library.

Studies show that students who have access to books read more than those who don't, so clear the knick- knacks from your shelves and fill them with books instead. You don't have to invest a lot of money to add to your collection. My kids used to love to shop at yard sales for "new" books. I was more than happy to oblige. When they grew tired of or outgrew a book, we would drop it off at the local Goodwill for another child to enjoy.

4. Read outside the box.

Reading isn't simply a person and a book. It's a person and a possibility. Encourage your student to read cookbooks and try out the recipes that appeal to him. Check out this summer's movie releases to see which ones are adapted from books. Read the book, see the movie and discuss the differences between the two. Try reading an old favorite in a new language. My kids learned some German in preschool and Spanish starting in grade school, so I ordered some of their favorite books in those languages. They were amazed that children half a world away enjoyed the same stories that they did.

5. Join the club.

Young people always are looking for something to do during the summer months, so why not start a book club? Members can take turns choosing books and discuss their choices at each other's homes, the local library or a favorite restaurant.

When it comes to summer reading, a little goes a long way. Encourage your student's reading habits this summer and enjoy a smooth transition when school resumes.

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 Rose at

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