Summer Book Time!
Author: Jennifer Van Buren
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Summer is finally here! No more pencils, no more books…wait a second, what do you mean no more books? Summertime is the ideal time to read! Here are some ways to make summer reading fun and meaningful for the whole family.

Chill out!
During the school day, students are generally told what to read and when to read it. Summer is the time to read just for the fun of it. Consider relaxing your standards for at least part of your child’s summer reading time. Allow your kids to select their own books, even if they seem too easy. It’s also okay if she wants to read junk once in a while, as long as she’s reading a variety of things. If all he wants to read are sports and Lego magazines, tell him to go for it (while you search for “real” books that match his interests). Parents who try to put too much control over the content of their kids’ reading risk feeding the perception that reading is a chore.

Need help finding a good book for your kid? Give your librarian or bookseller a list of your child’s favorites and she will direct you to more potential winners. You can find recommended summer reading lists online, including many from area schools. If not required reading, you could encourage your child to read a few of these recommended books throughout the summer.

Make it real
On a daily basis, adults read materials such as menus, recipes, road signs, water bills and traffic citations. These are perfect times to reinforce the value of reading and to practice skills. Ask your young reader to help look for road signs. Have your older child read the recipe for a favorite dish or instructions for putting together a bookshelf. If you have a vacation planned, encourage her to read maps and travel books to help plan your trip.

Keep a summer journal
It’s “what did you do over your summer vacation” with a twist. Have your child pick out a cool notebook to keep a travel journal or an everyday diary. Here she can write stories about trips you have taken, draw pictures of flowers in the yard or lizards on the front porch or tape movie tickets or maps from your trips. If you make this a yearly activity, she will have a wonderful collection of memories and will also be able to see the progress in her writing.

Have a book-themed celebration
Plan a series of little parties or events with your child throughout the summer that relate to the books he reads. You can even set up a book club for kids or families to promote the celebration of reading. For example, make chocolate dipped pretzels after “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” read “Bartholomew and the Ooblek” and then make your own gooey Ooblek, or plant a secret garden after reading….well you get the idea.

Set an example
Are you reading as much as you would like your child to read? Do your actions follow your values? Pick up a book and read. Talk it up! “I can’t wait until I get back to my book to see what happens next!” Pick up a newspaper or a magazine for a quick read and point out interesting facts or news.

During TV time, you can sit next to your child and read instead. Make a statement.

Supply and demand
Make books readily available to your child at all times. For an avid reader, this can be an expensive task. Remember there are used bookstores in the area, such as Recycled Reads, Half Price Books, Book Exchange, The Book Spot and Book Pride. Libraries are also an obvious choice for keeping your book supply flowing. Check your local branch for summer reading programs and sign up to help the family stay motivated and focused.

Keep books all over the house and take them with you everywhere. Beach bag, diaper bag or carry-on luggage should be stocked. Hand-held portable electronic devices have e-readers for children of all ages and you can always listen to an audio book in the car instead of watching a DVD.

Give it away!
Reinforce your value of reading by giving books as gifts. Graduation? Birthday? Father’s Day? Why not? If you are not sure of the reading level or area of interest of the recipient, get a gift certificate to a brick and mortar or online bookstore. It’s fun for children to have to really think about the interests of a friend or relative in picking out a book. “What do you think Daddy would like to read about? Motorcycles? Let’s go find him a good book for Father’s Day!” When a new baby is born, it is very exciting for a young child to buy their favorite book for the baby. Gifts of books are made sweeter by including a small toy or treat that relates to the topic of the book or if you include a handmade bookmark.

Read the book, see the movie
Summers in Texas can drive even the most rugged outdoorsmen indoors. Just face it: we are all going to spend time watching movies. Why not make it a more meaningful experience by reading the book first? Many children’s movies are based on a good book.

Read together. Watch together. Ask questions! Did the characters look like you imagined? How was the storyline (plot) of the movie different from the book? Why do you think the bad guy (antagonist) was so mean? Do you think the author would have liked the movie?

Here are 20 of the hundreds of great books that have been turned into excellent movies. As always, check first to determine if the material is appropriate for your family.

• Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine
• The Sheep Pig by Dick King Smith (Babe)
• The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne
Reid Banks
• Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
• Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
• Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
• Eragon by Christopher Paolini
• Holes by Louis Sachar
• The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse
• How To Eat Fried Worms by Thomas
• The Collected Tales of Nurse Matilda by
Christianna Brand (Nanny McPhee)
• The Borrowers by Mary Norton (Arietty)
• The Incredible Journey by Sheila Every
Burnford (Homeward Bound)
• Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne
• Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
• Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
• Charlotte’s Web by E.B.

• Anne of Green Gables by L.M.
• A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
• Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr

Did your kid see you reading this article? You are well on your way to parent of the year. See you at the library to claim your reward!

Jennifer VanBuren is a former teacher, a mother of three school aged children and lover of all things books.

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