Growing up at the Jersey Shore provided me with endless summer memories as a kid; ice cream on the boardwalk, warming up on the beach after wrestling the cool Atlantic waves, careless sunny days and warm firefly-catching nights. But one of my favorite summer memories is of the days I jumped on my bike and pedaled down the shady streets to our public library.
Stepping into the historic building, I can still smell the books and the possibilities. I loved the children's section and can remember sitting on the floor leafing through books. Graduating to the preteen shelves was a rite of passage and the beginning of a lifetime of discovery.
Making a selection was thoughtful and difficult at times. As a child, how can one choose between Judy Blume and Laura Ingalls Wilder? C.S. Lewis or Sweet Valley High? Some books were more for fun and provided insight into relationships and and others were beautiful classics that took you to new worlds and different times.
Getting Kids to Read
Parents can start nurturing an early love for reading, even with an infant, by reading to their children often. Follow through in the toddler and preschool years; you might just get your kids hooked.
If you are looking to prepare your preschooler to read and write, check out: Get Ready to Read! In addition, Helping Your Child Become a Reader is a site from the U.S. Department of Education that provides parents with great book ideas, kids magazines and computer reading programs based on a young child's age.
As our kids get older, what better way to discover adventures and learn about different people, places and times than through a great book? We know reading can be fun but it also has wonderful educational benefits especially during the summer months.
Encouraging your child to dive into books during the summer can help avoid the "summer slide" where kids to need to work harder and sacrifice time in the fall to regain the reading skills they had achieved in the spring. When the kids need a break from the sun, a good book is a great alternative to TV time.
As with homework, reading can sometimes be perceived as a chore. Especially when the great outdoors beckons. As parents, we can get involved and make it fun. First, lead by example and spend time reading for yourself. Then how about sharing your own favorite childhood books with your children? Our kids forget that we were young once too.
Have ever you read any of your kids' favorite books? Try a "favorite" book swap and then a discussion. It is a great way to connect with your child and helps you get know their interests and views. Imagine the sense of pride they will feel with your interest in their opinion.
What Should Kids Be Reading?
Along with suggested reading lists from school, I think kids should read anything that sparks their interest. A classic is always encouraged but a simple, fun read can be a refreshing break with all of the same benefits.
Even an adult, I still find myself reading "kids" books such as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and the Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. When I was younger, I did not exactly advertise my love for reading and books. One of the wonderful things about Twilight and Harry Potter is that it is cool for kids to read now and that is just the beginning.
Reading is educational but it is fun. It is a journey or an escape when you need it and a privilege that all children should be able to enjoy.
Some of my favorites:
Charlotte's Web - E.B. White
Whole series of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books (Little House on the Prairie and beyond)
Nancy Drew Mysteries - Various Authors (enjoyed the earliest books)
Johnny Tremain - Esther Forbes
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
The Good Earth - Pearl S. Buck
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
A Streetcar Named Desire - Tennessee Williams
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
Additional reading resources:
Summer Reading Tips from PBS Kids
Chatham and Madison Parents: What books do you treasure from your childhood and teen years? How do you keep your kids interested in reading?