Summer Reading

Summer Reading


Letting kids choose their own books is the key to helping them read. Don’t hover. Don’t judge. Don’t say no if they want another “Big Nate” instead of “Charlotte’s Web.”
– Newbery Award-winning children’s author Kate DiCamillo


This time of year is marked by a flurry of excitement and end-of-year happenings. As we consider the remaining days of school and all that we want to accomplish, it never feels like enough time. Savoring each moment and celebrating children’s growth throughout the year, we also appreciate the restorative and consolidating qualities of summer.


As June approaches, we begin our annual musings over summer reading and the research concerning its importance. Just as we ask children to read on a daily basis throughout the school year, we also encourage this routine during the summer months. Schools often cite the “summer slide” as a concern, and while there is research to support reading or learning loss over the summer months, there are a variety of factors that contribute to it.


While real, the summer slide is not a motivator for joyful, engaged reading, and it certainly isn’t, nor should it be, on the minds of young children whose reading skills are just emerging. We want these early experiences with books to inspire and evoke wonder rather than cause panic or fear. Children’s desire to read comes from the enjoyment they glean from the experience, the adults they observe modeling the habit, the access they have to just-right, high-interest books and the routines and habits that encourage them to plan, prioritize, sustain attention, manage time and persist to achieve particular goals.


Once the school year ends and you begin to settle into your summer routines, take time to consider where summer reading fits in. With older children, engage them in the conversation and planning. They can help determine the best time(s) of day for reading, where they are most comfortable and able to sustain their attention and how the reading fits into their summer schedule.


Ideas for encouraging reading over the summer months:

Summer reading should be joyful and engaging. Comic books, graphic novels, recipe books, collections of cards, instruction or video game manuals, magazines, how-to books, menus or environmental print are all wonderful ways to spark interest and excitement. It’s alright to start here, as these can serve as gateways for more complex reading.

  • Visit the Atheneum on a regular basis and elicit the help of your local librarians. If they know your child enjoys a particular author, book, subject, genre or series, they will have excellent recommendations for others she may like to try.
  • If your child enjoys reading in the car, tuck books or magazines in the backs of seats.
  • If s/he likes listening to audiobooks, you can purchase them on Amazon and download them using the Audible app, or you can borrow books on CD from the Atheneum. (Storytellers have wonderful collections that appeal to young listeners.)
  • Make high-interest books accessible throughout your home. Place them on bedside tables, in baskets around the house and in places you know your children tend to spend a lot of time.
  • When children begin reading on their own, it is important for them to practice their newly emerging skills. It is equally important for you to continue reading aloud to them, as you are modeling the habits and skills of a proficient reader, you are sharing higher level texts, with more interesting characters and plot lines, as well as more sophisticated vocabulary.
  • Limit technology, as it can easily take over all of children’s free time. If you do allow your children to play particular video games, there are likely books or manuals they may be interested in reading.
  • Be a role model and let your children see you reading.


How do we find great books?

While I have many favorites, it is never easy recommending a “great” book to someone else. With children, especially when they are on the cusp of really reading and finding great joy in the experience, what makes for a great book is not necessarily recommending one I love, rather it is a matter of matching the right book with the right child. It’s like discovering the recipe for the secret sauce.


Several weeks ago, I was visiting a Small School class for the third time in a week, and each time I visited, a particular student pulled the same book from the shelf and asked me to read it. There was something about the book that intrigued her. Was it the theme, topic, images, plot, characters, repetitive language or the fact that it was a silly interpretation of a classic fairy tale she already knew: The Three Little Pigs?


There are so many places to go from a story like The Three Little Pigs. There are versions told from different characters’ perspectives, multicultural versions or a host of other fairy tales that incorporate magic, good and “evil”, elements of three or seven and alluring, repetitive language. When we discover what it is that appeals so deeply to a particular child, and we make available a variety of books that draw on those interests, we are beginning to open the doors to lifelong, joyful reading.

Happy Summer,


Emily Miller
Head of School