Summertime is the best time of year for kids—and the perfect time to inspire your children with a love of reading. Encourage them to associate reading with fun, adventure, and warm memories, and they'll be hooked on reading for life. As parents, we need to think strategically about ways to instill a love of reading in our kids, from their preschool years through their teenage years. Here are seven suggestions:
1. Create a cozy reading nook for your child. The ideal book nook should contain a comfortable chair with easy-to-reach bookshelves, bookmarks, a dictionary, and maybe an ebook reader. (Kids love ebooks!)
2. Creatively combine reading with meals and snack. Serve soup with readings from Louse Ehlert's "Growing Vegetable Soup," which tells how vegetables are grown. Or read Marjorie Priceman's "How to Make an Apple Pie" with your child -- a tour of all the places apple pie ingredients come from -- then make a pie together.
3. Start a family book review blog. Have family members post book reviews, lists of favorite books, stories about author visits at school, and other book-related postings. Teach your kids to enjoy discussing the books they read.
4. Read the book and see the movie. Then discuss. Some conversation starters: How was the movie different from the book? Why do you think the filmmakers made those changes? What was the moral of the story? What would you have done differently if you were the author or filmmaker?
5. Encourage your child to write and illustrate a book. Kids learn what it's like to be an author by making up a story and sharing it with others.
When my son was in kindergarten, he came to me and said, "Daddy, would you help me? I want to write a book about a boy who invents a time machine." We worked on the project together for a week. My son eventually lost interest—but I didn't. I wrote it up as a book proposal and sold it to a publisher. That idea became the four-book "Timebenders" series—and I dedicated the first book, "Battle Before Time," to my son, who gave me the idea.
6. Encourage kids to adapt their favorite books to other mediums. Kids enjoy making drawings, collages, dioramas, and puppet shows based on characters and events in their favorite books. Encourage your young readers to explore the worlds of their favorite books.
7. Read with your kids. How long should you keep reading to your kids? As long as they'll let you.
Jim Brozina is a retired school librarian in Millville, New Jersey. As a single parent, he worried that he and his daughter Kristen might drift apart. So Jim came up with a plan to maintain the father-daughter bond: They would read together every night for a hundred nights.
Jim and ten-year-old Kristen began with L. Frank Baum's "The Wizard of Oz". They finished that book and kept on going, night after night after night. What began as a hundred-night challenge became an unbreakable habit.
When Kristen was in high school, father and daughter were still reading together every night without fail. Kristen recalled her prom night: "Before I went out, I had my hair in my up-do and my fancy dress on. I climbed into the bed next to Dad and he read to me."
Their nightly ritual continued until Kristen went away to college. Jim helped Kristen move into the dorm, then father and daughter sat on the steps and read together one last time—from the book they began with, "The Wizard of Oz." They both choked up as they read. Their reading streak had lasted nearly nine years—3,218 consecutive nights.
After earning a degree in English Literature, Kristen wrote a 2011 book called "The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared." She wrote under the pen name Alice Ozma, taken from "Alice in Wonderland" and the "Oz" books.
Encouraging a child to read requires commitment. And, I can think of few commitments in life that could be more rewarding for both you and your child.
Jim Denney is the author of "Walt’s Disneyland: It’s Still There if You Know Where to Look", a guide to Walt Disney’s theme park legacy. He blogs at WaltsDisneyland.Wordpress.com.