Q: I know from previous articles that you have written that I need to keep my children reading over the summer. For two of my older children, this is not a problem, but my fourth grade daughter hates reading. It’s seems like there is nothing I can do to get her to pick up a book. Is there any way to motivate her?
A: Motivating children to read over the summer is not an easy task. However, the reality is that without solidifying the skills she has picked up over the school year, your daughter will most likely regress.
Therefore, it is time to read her the riot act: read books over the summer or else. She has no options here. Her teacher will thank you for it in the fall and so will your daughter (even if she might be in high school before she is ready to admit it).
While you must be strict about enforcing a reading policy, you need not mandate what she reads. Give her plenty of choices when it comes to topics to read about – but don’t assume that you know what she is interested in reading. Elementary-aged children jump from one interest to another with lightning speed.
In order to keep her motivated, give her a target number of books she must read. For instance, she should read five books over the summer to maintain any progress she made during the school year. Work on getting her to read twenty minutes each day, steadily increasing to thirty minutes by the end of the summer.
If she has required summer reading, be sure to balance the books she is interested in with those on the list. Have them both on hand so that she can switch between them when she gets frustrated by her required reading.
Once you let your daughter know that she must read during the summer begin incorporating rewards. What do I mean by rewards? As opposed to physical rewards, the most beneficial reading rewards are experiences:
Take a book-based trip: If your daughter reads a book about the circus, consider attending one. If she reads a mystery novel about a stolen painting from a museum, go visit a museum and look at the paintings that spark her interest. The whole family can get involved with these trips as well. This sends the message that adventures and excitement begin in books – but can be carried over into everyday life experiences.
Make book-based foods. Depending on the book that your daughter is reading – choose a food that the characters eat and have a cooking adventure together. For example, if your daughter is reading Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, attempt to recreate some of the fantastical candies that are featured in the magical story. Alternatively, if she is reading Louise Fitzugh’s Harriet the Spy, concoct your own tomato sandwiches that are so delicious – they might be stolen too.
Another great way to get your daughter involved in reading (and to show her the power of reading) is to get her involved in reading to others. If you know of a local elderly relative, neighbor, or friend who is housebound, consider setting up a weekly “reading session.” Your daughter could perform a mitzvah and also learn that her proficient reading can positively affect others.
Good luck and happy reading!