UNT professor gives tips on encouraging children to read during the summer

Friday, May 25, 2012

For many elementary and secondary school students, summer means regular trips to the local swimming pool or water park, the movies, parks and recreation centers -- not the library or bookstore.

Dr. Daniella Smith, assistant professor in the University of North Texas' College of Information and a specialist in information resources and literature for children, points that reading is important during the summer months because “it stimulates the mind and helps students retain the information they have learned during the school year.” She has several tips that parents can use to encourage their children to read in the summer.

  • Get the summer reading list from your child’s school. “These lists are important because they are often linked to assignments your child must complete during the school year. It’s better for them to read the books during the summer than to wait until the first month of school, when reading the books can conflict with completing assignments,” Smith says.
  • Use your local library. Smith says a skilled public librarian can help children identify their reading interests and books to suit them, and public libraries offer activities centered around books to encourage a love of reading. She also suggests going to thrift stores and used bookstores to buy books on a budget.
  • Turn off the television and create a special reading hour in your house. If your child is older, try reading the same book as him or her and discussing the plot as the book progresses, Smith says.
  • Before going to some of this summer’s highly anticipated movies, such as “Snow White and the Huntsman” or movies featuring Marvel superheroes, have your child read multiple versions of the fairy tales, or background history of the characters in comic books.
  • If your family is planning a vacation, have your child read about the place where you are going, then create a family itinerary of fun activities, Smith suggests.
  • Keep in mind that all types of reading are beneficial -- “the game on the back of a cereal box, the comic strips and graphic novels,” Smith says. Try putting the television on mute and having your child read the closed captions instead of passively listening to the TV.
  • Encourage your child to set a reading goal and keep a book journal to record all books that he or she would like to read and finishes reading by the end of the summer. Offer a small prize for meeting reading goals. Or motivate your child by signing him or her up for a “book of the month” club, which are available for a fee.
  • Present your child with another challenge -- reading fluency. Choose a text and challenge your child to read the text with greater fluency -- at a faster pace and with greater accuracy -- each week, Smith says. “Fluent reading, along with comprehension, is needed to pass the standardized tests presented to students each year,” she says.

Smith may be reached at 940-565-3569 or Daniella.smith@unt.edu.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108