UT Expert Offers Ideas, Books to Get Kids Reading at Summer’s End

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Youngsters looking for some entertainment and excitement as the summer winds down might want to explore … the library.

Even kids who get bored with required reading can find summer reading a refreshing change.

And—don’t tell the kids this—summer reading can help maintain and develop their reading level. It’s also a good activity for parents and kids to do together.

“No matter the time of year or age, kids should be reading,” said Miranda Clark, director for the Center for Children’s & Young Adult Literature. “Get them as excited about reading as they are about other activities.”

Here are some tips from Clark for sparking your child’s love of reading this summer:

  • Let them have their way. Take your children to a bookstore or library and let them pick out their own books. “Summer is about freedom, for kids especially,” said Clark. “So giving them the freedom to choose their reading material is key to getting them to read in the summer.”
  • Crank up the car’s stereo with an audio book. Whether you’re traveling or at home, audio books are also a good reading alternative during the summer, Clark said. Parents can go online to the American Library Association’s website and search for award-winning audio books, including those that have won the prestigious Odyssey Award given to the best audio book for children and young adults.
  • Share the love. Parents’ involvement in their children’s reading habits is important in developing children’s critical reading skills. “Help your child learn how to know themselves as a reader,” Clark said. “It’s important we help our children become critical readers. Sharing a book with your child is even better because you can help them notice elements of the writing or illustration then connect those observations to their daily life.”
  • Anything goes. Reading chapter books or novels is wonderful, but reading a comic book or graphic novel is good, too. “Reading is all about acquiring language and being exposed to quality literature and great writing and vocabulary,” Clark said. “I think in the summer, reading is reading, and if kids are reading something they love, that should be good enough for us.”

The Center for Children’s & Young Adult Literature has published a list of award-winning children’s and young adult books as part of their The Best of the Best 2012 Workshop being held today. To see the whole list and to learn more about the center, visit the website.

Here’s a peek at some of the books on that list:

Kindergarten through third grade

  • A Hen for Izzy Pippik by Aubrey Davis, illustrated by Marie LaFrance—An eastern European folktale about a girl’s kindness and morality in the face of adversity.
  • 999 Tadpoles by Ken Kimura—When their pond becomes too crowded, a mother and father toad must move their young to a bigger pond, facing danger along the way.
  • Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri—Dragons may love tacos, but watch out when you give them spicy salsa!

Third through sixth grades

  • Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith—When Scrub discovers his grandmother’s bed and breakfast is actually used by aliens to vacation on Earth, he quickly has to learn how to keep his grandmother’s secret while ensuring the B&B stays open.
  • Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm—A fun and funny comic book-style novel about a young amoeba’s journey through life.
  • The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson—A graphic novel about a young shark’s life in Hawaii.

Fifth through eighth grades

  • Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos—Winner of the 2012 Newberry Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award, this novel follows young Jack Gantos and his experiences with a very unusual neighbor.
  • Chomp by Carl Hiassen—When Wahoo Cray’s animal wrangler father begins starring on a new reality TV show called Expedition Survival, one crazy thing after another prompts everyone to question whether anyone will actually survive the program.
  • Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt—A coming-of-age tale about 14-year-old Doug Swieteck who is trying to find his way in a new town where it seems everyone is barred against him.

Seventh grade through young adult

  • Pandemonium by Chris Wooding, illustrated by Cassandra Diaz—A graphic novel about a young man named Seifer who is abducted and forced to replace his missing look-a-like Prince Talon Pandemonium in his royal duties.
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green—Though Hazel’s cancer has always been terminally diagnosed, when handsome Augustus Waters walks into Cancer Kid Support Group, her entire world is turned upside down.
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley—As Cullen Witter’s world crashes down around him, he is forced to re-examine everything he once thought he knew.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Staaifvater—Every November, the Scorpio Races test the skills and determination of each competitor. Not everyone lives, and only one victor crosses the finish line.

C O N T A C T :

Miranda Clark (865-974-2305, mclark22@utk.edu)

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