School starting again means having more things to do: pack lunches, attend meetings, do homework, participate in after-school activities, and the list goes on. While getting back into the swing of the school year is exciting, the shift from summer to fall is overwhelming and often results in the loss of well-formed, closely-followed, summer habits…such as reading!
Recently I was chatting with a family friend, and she pointed out that her children stop reading once fall hits. She said they spend all summer spilling over good books and begging to visit the library (how awesome?!). But when they go back to school in early September, they stop reading, they stop asking to go to the library, they say goodbye to their just-for-fun reading habits. The time and attention school requires is absolutely valid, but hearing this made me feel sad and curious as to if this is a common occurrence (share your experience in the comments below!).
But hope is not lost! I’ve done some brainstorming and research and voila, 5 ways to maintain reading habits during the school year (for parents and children!):
1) Take a trip to a Little Free Library. These book boxes are for public use, following the mantra “Take a Book. Return a Book.” Little Free Library is nonprofit organization that encourages a smaller system of book sharing, one that inspires community and creativity (and is not limited to library hours). If you have one of these bountiful boxes in your area, visit with your family, help yourself to some free books, and leave a few if you’re so inclined. Introducing a child, or yourself, to a new location to access books will keep reading fresh in mind. Can’t find one near you? Consider building your own – it’s a fun project that will benefit the whole community and one that kids can get involved in.
2) Keep a solo or parent-child journal to visualize and celebrate your reading progresses. Content can include reading goals, accomplishments, challenges, must-reads, reviews, or whatever you’d like to track. Try out the “bullet-journaling” style which allows you and/or your child to be creative and really invest in reading as a form of self-development. If you’d like more information about bullet-journaling specifically as a reading log, check out this article, “Keep Track of Books to Read in Your Bullet Journal” from the blog “The Zen of Planning.” The blog’s author offers beautiful visuals if you’re interested in a more creative approach to keeping reading relevant.
3) Subscribe to literary email newsletters! Many subscriptions offer contests to win free books, discounts, and recommendations. If your child doesn’t have an email, they could create one–this instills a sense of ownership–or allow them to use your email. Often, these e-newsletters are customizable in content (genre, author news, pre-orders, etc.). I truly believe that reading about books still counts as reading. Maintaining a presence in the widespread community of book lovers, encourages a steady interest and offers fresh options. I receive email notifications from BookBub and Goodreads, but there are MANY websites that offer this service. Go ahead and Google the publishing companies of you and/or your child’s favorite books, and see if they have an email newsletter available. When you receive mail you’re interested in, you’re more likely to read it. Hopefully reading emails about books will make you more likely to read actual books! (CLiF Note: Brightly, A Mighty Girl (girl-specific), and We Need Diverse Books are a few of our kid-friendly favorites! We’d love to hear what children’s book e-newsletters you recommend!)
4) Okay, we’re throwing it back to a classic: go to the library! Uphold a weekly, bi-weekly or once-a-month visit to your local lib (whatever works for your family’s schedule). Having a planned outing stirs excitement in the weeks beforehand. Mark this day on your calendar, acknowledge that the books checked-out should, ideally, go back during the next trip. Don’t stress the timeframe too hard, but be aware that books must go back (or be renewed) by the deadline — this will incite richer bouts of reading! Or heck, don’t check anything out. Plop down in the library and read something short, a magazine, children’s book, or novella. It’s all about keeping reading present in you and yours child’s life. (Also, check your local library’s calendar, website and/or Facebook page for story times and other fun, engaging ways for your and your family to connect around books and stories.)
5) Now this is my number one piece of advice and perhaps the most effective: carry a book around! It doesn’t have to be read every time it leaves the house. The idea is to at least have the option to read–in the car, at the park, while waiting in lines, etc. It’s a simple solution that adds up to A LOT of reading time. If you try any of these tips, try this one. I carry around textbooks in a book bag all day long, but my favorite book, and the one that is read the most, is my just-for-fun-book :-). Audio books in the car or at home while doing chores are also a great way to keep stories alive during busy times.
Given, there are other types of reading that are more urgent for a child than just-for-fun reads. Homework is necessary, but obviously not always as fun as picking up Pete the Cat. So after the homework is all done encourage them to read, because it’s just good for them. They may ask “but whhhy?” I don’t have kids, but I think I would explain the importance of their mental health, and how reading is a form of self-love. Mental health is a hard to topic to bridge; it’s intangible and can be dark. Begin by introducing the word “health” as encompassing both body and mind. Encourage a sincere care for the mind by supporting a child’s journey in reading. It’s a tough one. Sometimes they’ll remain stagnant. All they need is some inspiration to keep them going, to keep them reading. Remind yourself, and your children, to read to keep the mind happy. (CLiF Note: CLiF’s Family Literacy Trainings discuss why reading is so important and strategies for incorporating it into your family’s routine. Not only does it have serious educational, emotional, and social benefits, but it’s a great way for your family to bond – and it’s fun!)