Madelyn Rosenberg is the author of eight books for children, including the Nanny X books and the How to Behave books. She lives with her family in Arlington, Virginia. Learn more about Madelyn at her official website.
August 11, 2016
A bunch of my teacher and librarian friends recently returned from a Reading Summit hosted by Scholastic. There, they spent a day talking about strategies to get kids excited about reading independently. Topics included the power of school libraries, how to give kids reading confidence, and ways for kids to share what they were reading with each other. There was much more, of course.
The discussion participants were reading experts, and it occurred to me that many of us are surrounded by reading experts, too. So I decided to host my own reading summit – at the kitchen table. The goal, I told my kids and husband, was just to figure out a few things that would get us excited about reading. What could we do that would get us reading more?
My daughter spent the last year slogging through a reading challenge at school. But this summer, she read plowed through book after book without being asked. Her suggestion as to what would get her excited about reading was fast and simple: Free choice.
Other suggestions from my family included:
- Road trips. The car is a great place for reading. Watch the clock and have an “Everybody Reads” hour. Then discuss what you’ve read so far.
- As someone who gets car sick at the slightest bump in the road, I’m personally not able to read on road trips. But I love audio books, which were not a thing in the 1970s when I was growing up. (Then again, neither were seatbelts.) An audio book also helps foster a shared family reading experience. Check out this list of favorite audio books. My own favorites include Harry Potter (the release of Harry Potter and The Cursed Child may send us back to the beginning), The Watsons Go to Birmingham, The True Meaning of Smekday, and The Candymakers (a sequel came out this month).
- One Family, One Book: pick a book this year that everyone in the family can enjoy and pass it around. You could even do an annotated version, where each family member writes in the margins next to a favorite part. Use a different color pen for each family member. At the end, meet over dinner and discuss.
- Pair a book with a movie. We usually have a rule where you have to read the book before you watch the movie, but my son pointed out that watching the movie first can also generate interest in the book. We were obsessed with the BBC’s Sherlock series this summer. It sent my son to Doyle’s originals, and he had a great time discovering how the plots had been changed and updated.
- A donut shop near us offered free donuts to patrons who showed the cashier what they’d been reading this summer. That made me realize that often, our kids don’t know what we’re reading because we do it after they’ve gone to bed. I like the idea of a family exchange, where we just talk about what we’re reading once in a while. It wouldn’t have to be an official book talk. Just talk about what you’ve been reading and what you like or don’t like about it. Read a line or two.
- Reading more than a line or two was another suggestion at our summit: Pass a book around and take turns reading aloud. For ideas and tips related to reading aloud, check out these Reading Aloud resources from Start with a Book.
- Because we’d been discussing summits, we also talked about reading at the top of a real summit: take a hike, first, and read at your destination.
- The last suggestion at our reading summit was a little vague, but I’ll include it anyway: Find some way to incorporate ice cream. If you can’t think of your own ideas, check out What’s Cooking at Start with a Book for inspiration.
Wrap up your summer reading and get set for the school year by hosting a reading summit of your own.