UT Education Faculty: Let Kids Choose What They Want to Read This Summer

With summer break officially under way, kids have plenty of time to read. And when it comes to kids’ summer reading selections, experts say anything from classic stories to graphic novels to comic books makes the grade.

“Let kids choose what they want to read,” says Anne McGill-Franzen, professor of education. “It’s okay to utilize reading lists but the best books, according to kids themselves, are the ones they choose.”

McGill-Franzen says that thought process correlates with a plethora of research on summer reading, including studies from the American Institute for Research, Scholastic’s survey in 2015, and UT’s own three-year study on the damaging effects of “summer slide” and how to avoid it.

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According to McGill-Franzen, students who do not read in the summer will not perform as well the following academic year. Allowing children to choose what books they want to read during the summer break helps to combat this reading achievement gap.

“It doesn’t matter what a child is reading as long as they are reading,” says Richard Allington, professor of literary studies. “It’s also important to note that just because you enjoyed a particular book growing up, it doesn’t mean you should expect or push your child to read it as well. A true love of reading is developed when a child has more freedom to choose what they want to read.”

Although summer reading loss is a real issue, resources are available to help kids during the break.

“Local libraries are a great resource and offer numerous free programs during the summer months,” says Allington. “Lots of great literary treasures can also be found at used bookstores or book swaps. Whatever you can do to get a book in a child’s hands during the summer will help them tremendously when school starts again.”

Allington and McGill-Franzen suggest the following ways to help kids maintain their reading skills during the summer:

  1. Turn off the TV, the cell phone, and the computer.
  2. Take kids to the library or a bookstore and allow them the opportunity to self-select books for summer reading.
  3. Encourage kids to think about choosing books from a series, since dozens of titles with the same characters are often available.
  4. Model healthy reading habits as a parent. Kids are more likely to read in homes where parents also read.
  5. Respect kids’ preferences and acknowledge their interests by asking them why they like reading particular books.

For more information about the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences, visit their website.

CONTACT:

Tyra Haag (865-974-5460, tyra.haag@tennessee.edu)