It can be easy to let your middle schooler’s summer reading requirements fall by the wayside. Many teens are reluctant to do anything academic over the summer and end up leaving their summer reading until the last minute, racing through it, or blowing it off altogether.
Parents may also feel as though they need a break from being the homework police. After all, our kids work hard during the school year, and we all know they need to recharge their batteries. Is it really such a big deal if they don’t get the summer reading done?
Why Summer Reading Is Important
Summer reading is not something you should neglect, says Emily Levitt, Vice President of Education at Sylvan Learning. Not only does it prevent summer learning loss, but reading is a wonderful way to build vocabulary and analysis skills—both of which are essential as your child prepares for the tougher academic challenges ahead of them in high school.
“The more you read, the better your vocabulary becomes,” says Levitt, who explains that summer reading is a great way for students to practice “context clues strategies” (decoding vocabulary words based on context), a skill vital to exams like the SAT. But they don’t necessarily have to be reading Dickens or Shakespeare to get these benefits.
Rekindle Their Love of Reading
Summer reading allows kids to read for pleasure in a way they might not always get the opportunity to do at school. “Summer is a really good time to bolster a child’s love of reading because there’s no teacher demanding anything of them,” Levitt says.
Your child will likely be given a suggested or required reading list, but Levitt recommends reading beyond that, allowing your teen to explore genres they might not otherwise.
“Summer is an opportunity to read what they want, instead of what the school tells them to,” Levitt describes. “They can try comic books, graphic novels, e-books, newspapers—or they can explore a new genre, like a fantasy novel.”
Enticing a Reluctant Reader
We all know there are some kids who won’t touch anything remotely resembling literature, so I asked four middle school moms what worked to excite their reluctant readers.
1. Movie Night
“I have found that books with movie versions are a good route,” says Christine, mom of two teens. “When my kids were reluctant to read in the summer, I could coax them into finishing the book so they could have a movie night and have the book come to life.”
It can be fun to compare and contrast the movie version to the book: Did they do a good job casting the characters? Did they take liberties with the major plot points? Is the ending the same?
2. Hire A Tutor
“We hire a reading tutor for my son with ADD,” says Jennifer, mom of a soon-to-be middle schooler. “He responds better to assignments with teachers or tutors. If it comes from me, he ditches and sneaks off with the neighborhood boys.”
“We start the summer off with a big trip to the bookstore,” offers Jennifer, who has two teens. “We also load up before vacation. For us, the key is limiting the amount of screen time the kids get and making sure those limits are clearly explained.”
And don’t forget about your local library! Sign your child up for a library card and make regular trips to browse for new books.
4. Read to Them
“With my youngest two boys, I kept reading out loud to them at bedtime until they were into their early teens,” recalls Teresa, whose four kids are grown. “They really loved it; I think it motivated them to become better readers and read the more challenging books.”
When it comes to motivating your middle schooler to read, give one of these suggestions a try and you may be surprised by what you find. They may even be so absorbed in their reading that they “forget” to mow the lawn.
Wendy Wisner is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, Family Circle, and Parenting, and she is a frequent contributor to Your Teen magazine at www.YourTeenMag.com.