Summer reading can be a challenge for some students.
Research about Gen Z shows that they have grown up with something called gamification. Simply defined, gamification is applying principles of a game to something that is not a game. Companies worldwide use the concept to inspire employees to take care of their health, meet goals, etc.
When kids are playing video games, they’re intrigued by getting to the next level, amassing a certain amount of points or the prospect of beating out a competitor.
Helping kids see summer reading as a game can make it more fun.
If you’ve ever had a struggling reader or a child who just has better things to do than read, we hope some of these ideas will help!
From Brooke Turbyfill
Learnwell Director of Communications and Community
These are tried-and-true in our family’s reading journey.
1. Participate in a book giveaway. One of our local bookstores lets students pick a new book when they’ve read 8 books of their choosing. They also have to complete a worksheet giving some basic feedback about which books they’ve enjoyed and why.
2. Create your own reading reward program. Our kids both enjoy ice cream, so we have made weekly reading goals that are tied to weekend trips to Dairy Queen.
3. Break a series rut. We have kids who love to read through an entire series. This is wonderful, but it limits the variety of what they read sometimes. So one summer, we had our kids’ best buddies recommend books and then let our kids recommend books to them. Here is how it worked: One of our kids reads a book of his choosing and then passes it along to a friend. That friend, then, gives our child a book that he or she has read and enjoyed. (We’ve found that kids are much more willing to break out of a series rut when another friend recommends the book.)
4. Minute to Win It: Some days, we set minute goals. The microwave timer goes on, and everyone – including Dad – has to read until the timer goes off. Then, we tell what we read and how we feel about it. We keep the timer short (20 minutes usually), and it’s a fun way to get everyone talking about what they’re reading.
From Katherine Christman
Learnwell Director of Admissions
When my kids were little, I REALLY wanted to instill in them an enthusiasm for books. I dreaded reading until I was 29 years old and because I knew the benefits of reading, I hoped my kids would catch the bug much earlier than me. Now my kids are 18 and 16 and I’m secretly thrilled when I see them lying on the couch or by the pool reading. …Or when one of them eagerly shares with me what they just learned in their latest book. But, it hasn’t always been that way. They both went through seasons when the last thing they wanted to do was grab a book- other things, like video games or an episode of The Office, captured their attention.
Now that my kids are older, I’m convinced that literacy seeds that are planted will grow! I’m so grateful for teachers, bloggers, and friends who shared tips and tricks with me:
1. Devote time each night for family read-alouds. Some of our favorites: (preschool/elementary) Sheep In A Jeep, Dr. De Soto, Beatrix Potter: The Ultimate Collection; (late elementary) Holes, The Golden Goblet, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Chronicles of Narnia, Where the Sidewalk Ends.
2. Take preschoolers on weekly or bi-weekly trips to the library.
3. Listen to audiobooks on long trips. Radio Theater by Focus on the Family was our favorite resource to introduce our kids to classic stories: The Hiding Place (for older kids), Bonhoeffer (for older kids), Anne of Green Gables, Chronicles of Narnia and Little Women. You can find Radio Theater here: https://www.focusonthefamily.
4. Give kids small gift certificates to bookstores as Christmas and birthday presents.
5. Propose a challenge at the start of summer: “See how big you can build your summer book stack.” I tried several motivational tactics, like paying money or earning toys for reading, but the most effective challenge was this one, which gamified the process. It didn’t stick immediately but it was a seed planted and years after the initial challenge, both of my kids love to visualize the stack of books they read throughout a year/ summer. They both take pride in the books they have read over the years.
From Melissa Shipman
Both of my girls, ages 10 and 12, love to read. There have been a few challenges for me in this:
Keeping enough books around, and encouraging higher-quality reading.
To keep enough books around for them, we have definitely used our local library. And several years ago they both received Kindles, and we do subscribe to the kid accounts so that they have access to age appropriate books there as well. We’re also fortunate that the girls are only two years apart in age, so they are able to swap books back and forth pretty freely.
Encouraging some higher-quality reading has been another challenge. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not a snob. Their “Puppy Place” books a few years ago certainly weren’t hurting anyone. But I began to notice that one daughter in particular was only reading these types of books.
The reading challenge that worked for us was something I stumbled across: the Mensa reading list for kids. I promise that I didn’t find this because I’m pushing Mensa membership on my children! These reading lists, clustered by groups of grades, were fantastic and contained both old classics and some books that were new to me. If the children keep track of their reading and send in their log, they get a free t-shirt. This wasn’t probably the main motivation for reading through their lists, but it helped!