Don’t Get Dumber in the Summer

 

Reposted by Lisa Dalesandro/@abookmama
Author of “Raise a Reader: 25 Effective Ways to Get Kids Reading”

There’s an old axiom in education that goes — you get dumber in the summer.

            Yes, our kids are busy.  Many have crazy schedules with school, sports, music, etc.  Then along comes summer break and many parents think — whew, the poor darlings need some down time.  

            If you have a child who is struggling with reading or any subject in school, you may be even more tempted to give all those tedious school related activities a rest for summer’s three short months.

            DON’T!

            Research shows that children who don’t read or continue with their education in some way actually lose knowledge over the summer.   It’s estimated that school summer breaks will cause the average student to lose up to one month of instruction, with disadvantaged students being even more greatly affected losing up to three months of reading progress.  That loss has a cumulative, long-term effect.

            As they say — use it or lose it.

            In 2009, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described summer learning loss as “devastating.”  Educators refer to it as the “summer slide.”  And, no, they aren’t talking about a trip to the water park or that long yellow plastic thing that gets spread out over your lawn.    

            This “summer slide” or “summer setback” gets worse as the years go by.  Those precious few months of loss in reading skills compounds over the years so by the time a child reaches middle school, those who haven’t read during the previous summers may have lost as much as two years worth of achievement.

            As luck would have it, it turns out that independent reading is perhaps the most effective way to combat any loss over the summer.  A study of 1600 sixth-graders in eighteen schools showed that the reading of four to six books during the summer was enough to alleviate the summer loss.  There is also evidence to indicate this summer reading helps improved spelling, vocabulary and grammar.

            As the summer grows near, make sure your child finds at least four good books to read and they will likely avoid any summer reading loss. 

            

How to Motivate Teens to Read

Adults know how important it is for their teenagers to read. Reading is not just important while teens are in school; good reading skills are essential to future success in the workplace. But making a pitch for reading can be a real challenge.

If you are the parent of a teenager who has lost interest in reading or never liked it much, here are some suggestions from the amazing site Reading is Fundamental for connecting with your teen about books and reading.

Try to avoid…

Before we list ways to encourage teen reading that work, here are a few tactics that don’t:

  • Pressuring, nagging, or bribing. Encourage teens to read, but don’t hound them.
  • Criticizing what teens read. Explain what troubles you about certain types of reading materials after reading them yourself. Forbid as little as possible. And whenever you can, accept differences of opinion as just that.
  • Lavishing too much praise. If you catch your teenagers reading, show interest, but don’t make a big deal out of it. Teens need to know that they’re reading for their own pleasure—not for your approval.

Ways to encourage teens to read…

  • Set an example. Let teens see you reading for pleasure.
  • Furnish your home with a variety of reading materials. Leave books, magazines, and newspapers around. Check to see what disappears for a clue to what interests your teenager.
  • Give teens an opportunity to choose their own books. When you and your teen are out together, browse in a bookstore or library. Go your separate ways and make your own selections. A bookstore gift certificate is a nice way of saying, “You choose.”
  • Build on your teen’s interests. Look for books and articles that feature their favorite sports teams, rock stars, hobbies, or television shows. Give a gift subscription to a special interest magazine.
  • View pleasure reading as a value in itself. Almost anything your youngsters read—including the Sunday comics—helps build reading skills.
  • Read some books written for teens. Young adult novels can give you valuable insights into the concerns and pressures felt by teenagers. You may find that these books provide a neutral ground on which to talk about sensitive subjects.
  • Make reading aloud a natural part of family life. Share an article you clipped from the paper, a poem, a letter, or a random page from an encyclopedia—without turning it into a lesson.
  • Acknowledge your teen’s mature interests. Look for ways to acknowledge the emerging adult in your teens by suggesting some adult reading you think they can handle.
  • Keep the big picture in mind. For all sorts of reasons, some teenagers go through periods without showing much interest in reading. Don’t panic! Time, and a few tips from this article, may help rekindle their interest.

Donate Your Gently Used Books

 

It’s spring cleaning time!  If you have a couple boxes of gently used books that you’d like to donate to some worthy organization, this list can help you find a new home for your wayward tomes.

  • Most public libraries accept used books. They may keep the books in the library’s collection or put them in a book sale to raise funds for the library. Call to get more info.
  • American Library Association has, by far, the most comprehensive list of organizations seeking book donations. It’s a great place to start because it’s highly accurate and kept up-to-date. They have an extensive list of organizations looking for childrens’ books.
  • Books For Soldiers sends books and other needed items to soldiers here and abroad.
  • Vietnam Veterans of America will pick up your book donation for free, and you can schedule the transaction online. They’ll also take clothing and household items.
  • Goodwill and other non-profit centers will frequently accept book donations.
  • The Prison Book Program gets paperback books to prisons around the country. (Hard cover books are not permitted)
  • Women’s Prison Book Project focuses specifically on female prisoners’ needs.
    This is the "Little Free Library" that just went up in my neighborhood.

    This is the “Little Free Library” that just went up in my neighborhood.

  • The Little Free Library program has taken off over the last few years. It’s a “take a book, return a book” local gathering place where neighbors share their favorite books for free.
  • National Coalition for the Homeless provides links to local homeless shelter where books are always wanted.
  • Call your local retirement homes, hospital waiting rooms, oncology centers to see if they could use a donation. 
  • If you’d like to donate a encyclopedia set that is older than ten-years-old or if you have books that need to be recycled or composted, contact Book Rescue of SCARCE, School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education.

 

Five Key Habits of Lifelong Readers

So what your kid loves to read now? Does that automatically mean they’ll grow up into lifelong readers?

Recently, there was an interesting article in the Washington Post recently entitled Getting Kids to Read: The 5 Key Habits of Lifelong Readers by Valerie Strauss. 

Strauss posters the question how do children actually become lifelong readers? That’s a subject tackled in a new book, Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller, a sixth-grade language arts teacher in Texas known to many as the “Book Whisperer.”

Along with fellow veteran teacher Susan Kelly, Miller details how to cultivate lifelong reading habits. The list was developed in part from a survey in which people related their own reading habits, as well as examining the habits of kids in their classrooms.

In a nutshell, they found that kids that go on to become lifelong readers do the following five things.

• They dedicate time to read. Strong readers spend substantial time reading in spite of their hectic lives capitalizing on the moments in their days when they are bored or waiting.

• They successfully self-select reading material. Good readers are confident when selecting books to read and have the experience and skills to choose books successfully that meet their interests, needs, and reading abilities.

• Strong readers share books and reading material with other readers. Readers enjoy talking about books almost as much as they like reading. 

• They have a plan. They anticipate new books by favorite authors or the next installment in a beloved series. Reading is not a casual, once-in-awhile pursuit.

• They express strong preferences in the books they like to read—gravitating toward specific genres, writing styles, topics, and beloved authors.

Are Smart Phones,Video Games and Television Rotting Your Kids’ Brain?

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By Lisa Dalesandro, author of the book “Raise a Reader:25 Effective Things to Get Kids Reading.”      

     Has this massive growth in media consumption actually changed the way our children’s brains are wired?  Unfortunately, the research is starting to confirm this frightening prospect might actually be true.  And not in a good way.

     Jane Healy author of a fascinating book that looks at brain science, the media and our children entitled Endangered Minds: Why Children Can’t Think — And What We Can Do About It is concerned about the effects of television, smart phones and video games on our kids’ brains.  She contends that these components of popular culture are compromising our children’s ability to concentrate and to absorb and analyze information. 

     Drawing on neuropsychological (brain) research she contends that even supposedly educational shows like “Sesame Street” develop “habits of the mind” that place children at a disadvantage in school.

     It is no coincidence, Healy suggests, that alongside the advent of television and computer games, there has been a drastic increase in the numberof children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.  As children grow, they have a very distinct developmental need. 

     She states,”Neuroscience suggests strongly that if the child’s developmental need during these periods are not met, we may actually close down some of those developmental windows.”  

     She goes on to speculate on the cultural causes behind this change.

     And though “certain brains have constitutional difficulty in paying attention our culture is not helping those brains develop strategies for attention and may be pushing some kids off the deep-end who wouldn’t be there otherwise.  Outside of school, many of our students are not partaking in those critical activities that stretch and deepen their brains. Instead, they often gravitate to those behaviors that offer instant gratification.” 

     As a result, many children are literally starving the lobes of the prefrontal cortex of their brains, a starvation Healy characterizes as “frightening.”

     Frightening indeed.

     The media floodgate has clearly opened over the last few decades.  Gone are the days where computers, smart phones, iPads, and video games do not exist. 

     With all this information in mind, it seems clear that a wise parent would put some strict limits on the amount of time and usage their kids get when it comes to electronics.  In fact, their growing brains may depend upon it.

     Here’s five things a concerned parent can do.

1. Set limits.  Limit the amount of time your child has access to TV, video games, and smart phones.  Research shows that up to 10 TV-hours a week, that’s less than an hour and a half a day, has no impact on children’s grades but beyond that the grades decline.

2. Bedrooms.  Don’t let your child have a television in their room.  And I would strongly encourage you to keep the computer out of their room as well.  As they get older, this may become more and more difficult but many internet safety experts advocate keeping any computer that children use that has internet access in a public area of your home.  That way you can keep an eye on what your child is both watching on television and what is popping up on that computer screen.

3. Meal time limits.  No television during meal time.  No phones at the table either.  That no-cell-phone rule sometimes proves harder for the parents to adhere to than the kids if you feel like you need to keep checking texts and emails from work. 

4. Daycares and schools.  If you have toddlers and/or preschool aged children, select a day-care that strictly limits television and other forms of electronics. 

5. Set a good example.  You can’t expect your kids to limit electronic use if you’re constantly on your laptop or cell phone at home.  Children will mirror your behavior. 

 

What Parents Can Do at Home to Help Kids Succeed at School

     Did you know that by the time your child starts high school, they will have spent some 9,000 hours in school?  Compare this to the 90,000 hours they will have spent outside of school. 

     It’s in your best interest as a parent or caregiver to take advantage of some of those 90,000 hours outside of school in order to prepare your child for a solid future.  Here’s why:

     Reading Rocket, a national multimedia project funded by a grant from the US Department of Education that offers research-based information on teaching children to read, states that learning to read is a challenge for almost 40 percent of kids.

     Even for strong students, the National Endowment for the Arts found that a “calamitous, universal falling off of reading” occurs for many students around the age of 13 and often continues through the rest of these students’ lives.

     Busy parents may indeed feel that the job of reading aloud to their kids or setting aside independent reading time is the responsibility of their child’s teacher.  But today, in a class of 20 elementary aged students, few if any teachers can find even five minutes of time in a day to devote to reading with each student. 

     So what can you do to help your child?

     The most important thing you can do is encourage your child to read independently at home.  This is called “free reading” or “silent reading”.  The amount of free reading done outside of school has consistently been found to relate to growth in vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency, and general knowledge.  The American Library Association states:

     “During primary and elementary grades, even a small amount of independent reading helps increase students’ reading comprehension, vocabulary growth, spelling facility, understanding of grammar, and knowledge of the world.”

     Despite numerous studies that point to the importance of out-of-school reading, most students spend very little time reading at home.  About half of all students read for only four minutes or less per day.  That adds up to less than one half hour of reading a week. 

     Clearly there is substantial reason to try to increase the amount of reading that students do outside of school.  And the only person who can realistically make sure this happens is not your child’s school or teacher, but you, your child’s primary caregiver.

     So instead of turning on the television tonight, read aloud to your child.  Instead of heading to the mall, take a trip to the public library.   And most importantly, encourage them to sit down and read to themselves for at least 15 minutes a day.  A mountain of literacy research points to the fact that you’ll be happy you did.

 

How a Little Time Can Make A Big Difference in Your Child’s Life

     We’re all busy.  And our kids are no exception.  School, soccer, violin, dance and homework eat up the hours of the day.  If you want your children to be a strong readers, then it’s up to you to make some time for them to do this.  Research shows that simply providing a structured time to read will result in more reading.

     Yeah, yeah, you say laughing and shaking your head, I can go ahead and schedule some time but my kid isn’t going to actually read.  Are you crazy?  You can lead a horse to water and all that…

     Actually, if you schedule time, provide reading material chosen by your child and remain consistent with your efforts, there is good evidence to suggest that your child will start reading.  And reading begets more reading. 

     A study done by Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding (1988), considered by many to be the benchmark study in literacy, looked at the out of school reading habits of children in 5th grade. 

     They asked the kids to keep a reading log estimating how many minutes of reading they did per day.  The study found that the children in the 90th percentile read on average 21 minutes a day, which translated to 1.8 million words per year.  Compare that to the children in the 50th percentile who read under 5 minutes a day outside of the classroom, or just 280,000 words per year.

That comes down to just 15 minutes a day.

     Fifteen minutes a day made up the difference between kids at the top of the class and kids barely in the middle.  The Commission on Reading (in “Becoming a Nation of Readers”) recommended two hours a week of independent reading.  Broken out over 7 days, that comes out to just over 15 minutes per day.  (17 minutes and 14.3 seconds to be exact)

     In case you were wondering, the bottom 10% or the weakest 5th grade readers, read only 8,000 words per year.  To put that in perspective, this article is 800 words long which would be 10% of their yearly reading.

     Clearly the amount of time a child spends reading outside of school is directly related to their academic performance in school.   And the most amazing thing about these findings is that it was such a small amount of daily time — only 15 minutes —  can make such a huge difference between being at the top of the class or in the middle. 

     Can you find 15 minutes a day for your child to read at home?

 

What’s On Your List? The Gift that Keeps Giving.

With the holidays less than a month away, kids everywhere are eagerly dreaming up their wish lists. Here’s a friendly reminder that you might want to suggest that they tack a book or two onto that list.

If you want to encourage more reading at home, this is a great way to do it.

When all those grandparents, aunts and uncles, and family friends start asking the eternal what can I buy for your kids? remember to suggest some new reading materials along with all those toys, gadgets and clothes.

How about pairing toys with books.  If Santa is bringing your little girl the latest American Doll be sure to buy a couple of the companion books to go along with it.  If your boys love dinosaurs, buy them a big colorful dinosaur encyclopedia.  No matter where your child’s interests lie, I guarantee you there are more than a few books out there on the very same subject.

If a book-phobic reluctant reader lives in your home, consider a graphic novel or a subscription to a magazine instead.   Maybe consider a book like “The Hobbit” as a gift that can be read after you see the film this Christmas.  

Perhaps give your child your favorite book from childhood, scribble some heart-warming words of inscription on the cover page and promise to reread the book along with your child.

Still don’t have a clue as to which book to buy?  Then let them pick.  As for me, in my adult form, nothing makes me happier than a nice juicy Amazon.com gift card.  The thought of filling up my Kindle for free makes me nearly giddy with delight.  (hint, hint my family)

As a final thought, remember kids become stronger readers when they see their parents reading at home too.  Therefore, you might want to think about adding a couple books to your holiday wish list as well.

Trouble with the “50 Page Rule”

When a child doesn’t like to read it can be frustrating for parents when they finally talk their kid into reading some wonderful book only to have the child quit reading it a quarter of the way through.  Not only does the parent get frustrated, but the child eventually figures out that when they quit reading a book their mom or dad is disappointed in them.  Often, down the road, they just refuse to read the next book.

A vicious cycle is born.

The book that broke the curse!

In my own reading life, I have a personal “100 page rule.”  I try to give every book I begin at least 100 pages before I decide to abandon it.  And believe me, I can’t wait to find a new novel that I love so much I can’t put it down.  (Who’s read “Gone Girl?”)  But, alas, sometimes it just isn’t meant to be.

In my house we solved this problem with the “50 page rule.”  We agreed that if my child will read the first 50 pages, she can decide to stop reading at page 51 and find something else.  

Depending on their age, give your kids a similar rule.  Have an 8 year old read 10 pages.  A 10-year-old, 20 pages.  Chance are, if they give it a chance, they’ll get hooked by the plot and keep going.  

But if they don’t, let it go.  

Let them put the book down and select something else.  That’s the crucial thing — that they select something else.  This might even have the added effect of making your child more willing to give something a try that they wouldn’t normally pick up.  

 A lot of factors contribute to not liking a particular book.  Sometimes it’s above your child’s reading level.  They may be reluctant and embarrassed to admit that the book is too hard.  Sometimes they find the plot unengaging or just plain dull.  Other times, it just simply isn’t their cup of tea.

This rule worked like a charm in my house.  Until recently.  A few weeks ago I noticed that every book my daughter has been bringing home from the school library, she’ll read for a few nights and then abandon it claiming to invoke the 50 page rule.  

Really, again?  You can’t find anything you like?  When was the last time you read a whole book?  Looks like I’m back to sounding like a nagging mother.

I mentioned this to the librarian at school and she waved an unconcerned hand, suggesting that it’s just a faze.  Probably a control thing, she explained.  She most likely enjoys the power of selecting something and then rejecting it.  Let it be and it’ll probably go away.

Why is “just let it be” often the hardest part of parenting?  

But I took her suggestion to heart and backed off.  I stopped making comments and silently shaking my head when another book bit the dust.  Then last night I noticed that she’s nearly three-quarters of the way through “The Tales of Despereaux” by Kate DiCamillo.  

Is the curse broken?  Too early to tell.  

But here’s what I took away from this experience.  First, having the “50 page rule” established seems to be giving her the freedom, in fact I’d even say empowering her, to try and reject a lot of different styles of literature.  Even if she discovers she doesn’t really dig graphic novels, hey, she gave it a shot.  

And secondly, it’s reminding me that I need to let go a little bit more, stop trying to control everything all the time, and allow her to find her own way.  After all, we all know that is our ultimate goal as parents.  Some of us just need to be reminded of it more than others.

Third Grade is a Magical Year

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At least when it comes to reading scores.  Last week, Time Magazine published an article entitled “Retrograde.  Is it smart to hold back third-graders who can’t read well?”

It seems there’s a new trend of holding back 3rd graders who are not reading at grade level.  Instead of moving on to 4th grade, these struggling readers repeat the year in hopes of strengthening literacy skills.

The article sited one study published last year by City University of New York that found 1 in 6 students who couldn’t read at grade level at the end of third grade didn’t finish high school by the age of 19.

This disturbing, although not surprising data, has in part led to 32 states instituting policies that specifically target third grade reading skills in an attempt to intervene before the struggling student heads off to 4th grade.  Fourteen of these states have gone so far as to require that student who don’t reach specific literacy goals be held back.

Opponents of holding kids back site research that shows kid’s who repeat grades often have less confidence and are bullied more than their peers who move up.  Some evidence shows that these factors may increase high school dropout rates.

But opponents of the opponents (or more folks in favor of holding back struggling readers) point to yet another study recently released by the Brookings Institute completed by the Harvard School of Education which indicates that kids who are held back in third grade actually perform BETTER by 8th grade than their peers who moved up at a steady pace.

What’s the answer?  The experts are clearly split.  If your child was struggling in 3rd grade would you want them held back? 

What About Older Kids? Should They Be Rereading Books?

 

     Earlier this week we talked about the benefits young children get when they reread picture books over and over.  (Is It Okay For Young Children to Reread Books Over and Over?)  It helps build reading confidence, vocabulary and an understanding of sentence structure.  Perhaps most importantly, it assists in instilling an identity as that of a reader.

     But what about big kids who go back to reread the same novel over and over?  One parent wondered out loud why they would waste their time if they already know how the story ends?  

     There are several reasons why bigger kids decide to reread a book.  The most obvious is because they just simply really liked it.  There’s something in the plot, characters or the over-arching themes that speaks to them as an individual, and they want to re-experience that.  They also already know the characters and are familiar with the setting, so it offers a sense of comfort.

     I noticed after my daughter tackled a particularly challenging trilogy of books, she immediately went back and reread Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  I think she just needed a break.  She wanted something fun, easy and familiar.  Something that wouldn’t tax her brain too much.  Isn’t this the very same reason we adults love romance novels, pulp mysteries and westerns? 

     There may also be a deeper level to this issue.  Frequently, it isn’t until we get to the end of a novel that we realize there’s more than just what’s on the surface.  Stories have different levels that contain different meaning.  When you reread a book, you already know the basic plot so you pay attention to, or notice, other elements in the story.  In that way, a second pass deepens and enriches the experience more than that of reading the book for the first time.

     When a child first encounters Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone the only information they have about Harry is what they’ve just read in the previous pages, but when they read it a second time, they already know the whole story, so they can now examine and reflect upon Harry’s world and situation in an entirely different way.  When Harry is dropped off at his aunt and uncle’s house by Hagrid, the reader may now feel differently about Hagrid leaving poor little Harry in such an unwelcoming environment.  Yet, the reader now knows that in less than 100 pages, Hagrid will reappear as the boy’s champion.  Thus, the reader observes the nuances of the story differently upon a second or third reading.

     As a parent don’t be too upset if your child continues to go back to a favorite book over and over.   Yes, we want to help guide them to finding new favorites but in the long run, there’s nothing wrong with rereading a beloved book once, twice or even more.

 

Is It Okay For Young Children to Reread Books Over and Over?

Is repetition a good or bad thing?

    “Again!  Again!”  Any parent of a toddler has heard the plea to reread a book the instant you finish it.  So you read it again.  And again the next day.  And the next… 

Max and the Wild Things

    I personally must have read Where the Wild Things Are and Good Night Moon 10,000 times between 2003 and 2005.

     The love of repetition is part of the fabric of young children.  It’s how they learn.  Research shows that repetition in reading picture books helps young children acquire new vocabulary, learn different sentence structures, and helps them to learn new and different information about the story or illustrations each time they are exposed to it. 

     When a child is first learning to read, they may want to reread a book by themselves because they feel much more successful when they read it again.  It feels easier.  They know the words.  The story and characters are familiar.  The text has already been decoded for them. 

     Rereading the same book gives them a wonderful shot of confidence and builds on the notion that they are a reader.  Hooray!  When you do something well, you tend to enjoy it more.  Rereading for an emerging reader is an important factor in becoming a lifelong reader.  What could be more wonderful?

Good Night Moon Puppet Show

      A complaint some parents raise is that after a child has read a book over and over, they aren’t really “reading” it, they just have it memorized.  Well, yes, that is probably somewhat true, but so what?  That still doesn’t mean there isn’t value in them looking over the pages and becoming familiar with letters and words and basic storytelling principles.  It’s all part of the process of learning to read. 

     So yes!  When you’re reading to pre-school and young elementary school aged kids repeat stories knowing that repetition is a positive learning strategy and that your little emerging reader will learn more than the child who gets a different book every time.

RAISE A READER now available in paperback

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My best selling parenting guide entitled “Raise a Reader: 25 Effective Ways to Get Kids Reading” is now out in paperback.  You can get your copy at Amazon.com.  

 

Don’t forget to keep an eye out for my next book “The 250 Best Books for Kids” which will be out in 2013.

 

Five For Friday — Some Summer Stuff

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By Lisa Dalesandro/@abookmama
Author of “Raise a Reader: 25 Effective Ways to Get Kids Reading”
       
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Moving through the dog days, I’ve listed a few great books that celebrate the joy of the summer season. What’s your favorite summer book?

Ages 3 – 5

SUMMER by Alice Low.  An oldie but a goodie.  Many moms and dads may remember this one from their childhood.  A boy, a girl and a dog share some summer fun.  

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Ages 5 – 7

BAD KITTY by Nick Bruel.  Okay, this isn’t exactly a summer book, but because BAD KITTY  is one of my favorite series for emerging readers I listed it as light summer reading.  On the surface, this is the story of a cat that turns bad when her family runs out of her favorite food, this is really a clever alphabet book for kids old enough to appreciate the way words work.    

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SUMMER ACCORDING TO HUMPHREY by Betty G. Birney.   When Humphrey hears that school is ending, he can’t believe his ears. What’s a classroom hamster to do if there’s no more school? It turns out that Mrs. Brisbane has planned something thrilling for Humphrey and Og the frog: they’re going to Camp Happy Hollow.

Ages 7 – 9

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Ages 9 -12 

ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia.  Set during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history, One Crazy Summer is the heartbreaking, funny tale of three girls who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 in search of the mother who abandoned them. It’s an unforgettable story told by a distinguished author of books for children and teens, Rita Williams-Garcia.

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Good summer reading for grown ups.

THE NIGHT CIRCUS by Erin Morgenstern.   This is the last book I read that I could not put down.  Set at the turn of the 19th century, this dark mystical love story about a magical circus will steal your heart and help you kill a few hours at the beach.

 

Do You Pay Your Kids to Read Books?

Why using reading incentives can backfire

reading incentives     Incentives (also known as brides) work well to encourage some kids to read more but don’t work at all for other kids. 

     Also, it’s interesting to note that reading experts are divided on the value of offering these incentives in order to motivate your child to read.  

     If you’re having a truly difficult time getting a child to embrace a love of reading and books, then a temporary incentive program might help jumpstart the habit of reading.  But notice I used the word TEMPORARY.

     So how does it work?  Basically, you find something your child wants and you trade it to them for reading a whole book or for the amount of time they spend read.  For example, you might negotiate that if your child reads six books this summer, you’ll all go to the water park for the day.  Or, if they read for 30 minutes a day for 7 days, they can have a friend sleep over this weekend.

     Other parents just use cold hard cash.  They may pay anywhere from a couple bucks per book, up to whatever they deem to be a fair price. 

     The idea is that the incentives help form the habit of reading.  They’re not something you want to use over a long period of time. 

     Using reading incentives can backfire if not handled correctly.  Ask any teacher that has used incentives in their classroom.  They’ll likely tell you that the kids eagerly embraced the challenge of plowing through books in order to win whatever prize has been dangled before them.  But they’ll likely also note that many students begin picking the easiest and shortest books in order to bulk up their reading log.  They’ll probably also tell you that they have their suspicions that more than a few of their students cheated by including books that they didn’t really read or only skimmed.

    What’s your feeling on bribing….er, I mean, using incentives to get kids to read?  Would love to hear your thoughts.

  

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