Despite schedules full of soccer leagues, summer camp and days with friends, returning to school after summer does not have to be a mental shock for children. Those who continue to read throughout the months-long break, alone or with parents, can ease the transition into the next grade.
In a study done by the National Education Association, it was found that teachers often spend the first month of school reteaching material to students, and that children who read four or more books over the summer fare better on reading comprehension tests.
From summertime library programs to staying right at home, keeping youth reading is just a matter of taking a little time out each day and helping children develop a leisurely interest in reading beyond the classroom.
“It is very important for students to continue reading over the summer, and getting extra help at home is the best choice,” said Brittany Schob, a third grade teacher at Phillips Elementary. “And reading can take place anywhere. It’s just important to make reading fun and find out what a child likes to read.”
Many teachers and parents alike feel that the key is to let children explore their own interests in literature, rather than simply picking out books for them or requiring a certain amount of reading.
Marietta resident Bethany Brown said the more likely her son Carter, 6, can get a book about superheros or monsters in his hands, the more likely he will be to read.
“We have a daily routine where he has his own books that we spend time reading throughout the day, then before bed we focus on Bible stories,” she said. “It’s important to find stuff they like, because if you sit down and get them really interested in something and interested in what is going on in the story, they are more likely to stick with it.”
Julie Stacy, the manager of youth services at the Washington County Public Library in Marietta, said it is easier than parents might think to keep kids reading.
“It doesn’t always have to just be a book in hand,” she said, mentioning that even a book on CD is a good alternative. “Have children read signs out loud when traveling, or give them a map in the car and let them read that.”
Stacy said the Washington County Public Library’s summer reading programs, which allow children to mark down every 10 minutes of reading, earns them prizes and provides a good incentive to read more.
Though the library reading programs encourage time increments of reading, the NEA suggests to parents not to put a specific time on reading, but instead make sure the activity falls in the ball park of at least 10 to 30 minutes per day.
“It should be at least once a day,” Stacy said. “Even if it’s a young child, just pull out a picture book, or if it’s an older child, have them read one chapter a day.”
Stacy said though sports, vacations and family time are important too, taking 10 minutes out of each day to read is something everyone should be able to do.
“Children reading all summer helps keep up the skills they’ve learned in school, and a lot of the time they’ll advance further when they start again,” she said.
Having a parent read to a child is just as important, Stacy said.
“That interaction itself is important, and if a parent is reading at a higher grade level than the child, you’re challenging them as well as advancing their vocabulary and writing skills,” she said.
Programs like the story hours at the library often incorporate activities alongside reading, which the NEA said can be the key to keeping children engaged.
Becky Davis is a mother of three from Marietta who home schools her children, and though she gives them what is similar to a traditional summer break, the reading does not stop in June.
“I bring them (to the library) regularly for different programs, and I am constantly reading to them because I do find that they like to just sit quietly and listen,” she said. “It’s important for parents to take charge and make sure the reading is fresh in their minds.”
Brown said even picking out sight words and practicing them daily can help children advance past their peers.
“Have them read a bit every day before they start playing a video game or turn on the TV,” Brown said. “It provides an incentive, and if it is something that interests them, they’ll learn to love reading even more.”
Stacy said when reading with a child, make sure it is not always done passively.
“Talk about what you’re reading, not just to make sure they’re listening, but ask what is going on in the story and bring in their imagination,” she said.
The Marietta library offers story hours every Wednesday for children in their early years of elementary school, American Girl and other activity programs for ages 5 to 12, and special topic programs that incorporate science, art and creativity that run throughout June and July.
At the Barlow, Belpre, Beverly and New Matamoras branches, regular story hours and summer reading programs are also available, including special elementary-age programs throughout the afternoons and evenings in summer.
At the Belpre branch, the popular Camp Buckeye is held every Thursday morning for those ages 2 to 12 and their families, with stories, crafts, games and projects that lasts from mid-June to mid-July.
“There have been studies that show that when parents read with their kids, (the kids) are more likely to see the importance of it later in life,” said Susan Chipps, manager of the Beverly library. “And in summertime, kids can read whatever they want, so they’re more apt to find things they’re really interested in and get invested in it.”
Chipps said reading recreationally also improves a student’s ability to complete school work.
Students entering kindergarten through fifth grade can also enjoy the annual Marietta College-Marietta Morning Rotary Summer Reading Camp, “Dive into Reading,” which this year takes place from June 9 through June 27.
During the three-week period, children work in small groups with trained professionals at the Marietta College Campus five days a week.
“Marietta College students take a class in the spring, and the camp is the clinic for the class,” said Carole Hancock, a Marietta College education professor who coordinates the camp. “They learn to tailor needs to individual children, and it’s a little more relaxed with a theme where they can learn at their own levels.”
Registration for this year is closed, but the camp will continue for one more year in 2015.
Schob, who is going through the new Third Grade Reading Guarantee tests with the rest of the state, said keeping the reading up makes a lasting difference.
“Take them to the library to expose them to books,” she said. “But it does not just need to come from a book, as children can read when they are at the grocery store or in the car…anything suitable for their level.”
Hancock also said that parents need not stress so much about the perceived quality of books, as long as children are getting a good balance.
“You don’t read Barbie all the time, they need good literature too, but if they’re reading and it’s acceptable in terms of language use, then don’t worry so much,” she said. “Magazines and the newspaper are also wonderful resources.”