Margaret Wimborne, director of communications and community engagement, Idaho Falls School District 91

School may be out, but summer is still a great time to read.

Reading is a critical way to help children grow their literacy skills and help ensure they don’t lose what they’ve learned during the school year. Whether you have a child just starting kindergarten or a teenager heading to high school, there are lots of ways to make reading fun during the summer.

Many elementary school libraries in Idaho Falls School District 91 are open with limited hours this summer. Some of the school libraries are partnering with the Idaho Falls Public Library to offer summer reading programs complete with contests and prizes. Others offer times for children to check out books or spend time with friends.

“For kids, summer is all about freedom! Freedom from a rigid schedule and freedom from teacher-assigned books. Neighborhood school libraries give children the opportunity to select their own books from hundreds of choices,” said Gail Rochelle, District 91’s director of student achievement.

“Having school libraries open in the summer also provides a family activity or a chance for older students to exert their independence by walking or biking to the library on their own. Who wouldn’t want to escape to an air conditioned library during the heat of summer? Even if you have to take your younger sister, at least it is a place where she has to be quiet,” she said.

While stopping by your neighborhood school library may be a good way to encourage your child to read over the next few months, don’t overlook the fun summer reading programs offered by the Idaho Falls Public Library. The library has an array of summer reading programs. Elementary school students can earn prizes by keeping reading journals, and also soak in reading time or sign up for activities. There are also reading programs designed especially for teens and young adult readers.

If you can’t convince your teen to accompany you to the library, consider asking them to use their reading and literacy skills to do research for an upcoming family vacation. If you’re taking a road trip, ask them to research routes or study up on possible stops along the way. If you’re flying, encourage them to read about the area you’re visiting and assign them the job of tour guide when you arrive. If you’re going to a family reunion, encourage them to interview their grandmother and write a family history.

The upcoming eclipse may be another way to entice your children to read over the summer months. There are wonderful science books that explain how an eclipse occurs, as well as stories detailing myths and superstitions about eclipses.

Science books are also a good way to encourage beginning readers to learn more about the world around them. Help your kids find books about the things they’re most interested in, whether that’s dinosaurs, animals, bugs or stars. Talk to them about what they’re reading and help them connect what they’re learning to the world around them by planning a visit to a zoo, a forest or a planetarium.

Even though it may be hard to coax your child in at night or maintain a schedule, try to find time to read together at night, if not every night, then a couple times a week. Research shows that reading aloud to children can produce a lifetime of benefits. Plus, it’s a nice way to reconnect as a family at the end of the day.