Becoming bookworms - Reading - even in the summer - is key
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Students are putting away their books in preparation for summer vacation, but Zoe Cassady and Nancy Harris believe the summer break does not mean taking time out from reading.
"Any continued reading supports a student's learning by helping them to build background knowledge and comprehension," said Cassady, a Title I reading teacher at Streator High School. "When a student reads over the summer, it is usually for enjoyment -- which generally means he or she is likely to read more. As with any other activity, practice really does help to improve skills. Skills that are built over the school year should not just stop cold because it is summer."
"Students who do not read over the summer regress," agreed Harris, reading specialist at McKinley School in Ottawa. "They come back to school reading at a lower level than they were reading at the beginning of summer. Reading ability, or lack of it, has an impact on almost every school subject."
Both Cassady and Harris advised parents who want to encourage reading to sign up for summer reading programs at local libraries, which often offer prizes to reward reading and fun activities to ward off complaints of boredom. Another option is to let children pick out books at book sales or garage sales.
The key to promoting reading is to help children find books that pique their interests, whether it be sports, super heroes, animals or technology. When they choose the books, children are less likely to view reading as "school work."
"Students who read in the summer have a chance to read at their own level and pace and to choose books they are interested in, all of which help to make reading enjoyable and to increase their skills," said Harris.
Families can also read together from the time children are young to set a foundation that reading is important.
"Parents can read aloud to their children or just curl up on the couch together as they each read their own book," said Harris.
"Even very young readers can find books of interest that can be shared as you read together. My 2-year-old is 'reading' picture books that she has selected, but I also am reading the Chronicles of Narnia to her," said Cassady, who then advises families to talk about the books they read.
Parent involvement, said Harris and Cassady, is key. Parents who want their children to be good readers should become readers themselves.
"Showing your student that you enjoy reading will go a long way in supporting a life long reading habit," said Cassady.
Book lists for every age group and genre are available online -- at sites such as the International Reading Association, www.reading.org -- and plenty of recommended reading selections can be found at local libraries and from classroom teachers.
"The brain needs to work out just as much as the rest of the body," said Cassady. "The reading habit can help to keep the mind sharp over the summer."