Melanie Christensen, contributing writer

Around this time of year, articles and news stories start appearing about the “summer slide,” forebodingly proclaiming that children who don’t read during the three months that school is out of session face a serious loss in learning. When you hear this information, you may wonder how to help your children take an interest in summer reading, especially if you had to wrestle them just to read for school assignments. Kim Bryant, the children’s library supervisor at Idaho Falls Public Library, is passionate about teaching kids to love reading. She shared a few tips for making your children eager to read this summer.

Explain the benefits of reading. Many children are driven to be successful and will take a stronger interest in reading if they know it will help them get ahead. Kim said, “I actually find that when I talk to the kids and tell them that if they read over the summer they will be ahead two grade levels, they’re usually very responsive to that.” Kids can also recognize that if they don’t read during the summer, they will be behind. Kim uses an analogy to help kids understand. “If you took three months off from sports, wouldn’t your athletic skills go down?” she said. “Well, it’s the same with reading. You don’t want your reading muscles to get flabby… If you don’t want to have a flabby brain, you need to read over the summer.”

Let them read what they want. When reading material is assigned, children tend to view it as a chore. Let children choose what to read — regardless of its skill level or subject matter — during the summer months so they can find the joy of getting lost in a book. “I tell kids to read Garfield comic strips all summer long,” Kim said. “What’s important is that they read.” Help them set individual goals. To help your children become avid readers, help them set and reach goals for daily and weekly reading. The goal could be in minutes, pages or chapters. Kim said there’s no onesize- fits-all goal. “I had a nephew who was super distracted because he had a minute limit,” she said. “So they changed it and he had to read two chapters so he wasn’t so distracted by the time limit.”

Don’t punish; incentivize. Though it may be tempting to threaten to take away video games if kids don’t read, Kim recommends avoiding punishing children for not reading because it makes them view reading in a negative way. “I never want parents to make it a punishment,” she said. “I’d rather them say, ‘If you finish your reading you’ll get a reward.’” Offer to take them to the park or make them a treat. Ask your children what would motivate them to keep reading and create a plan for summer fun.

Sign them up for a summer reading program. Summer reading programs provide great incentive for kids to read, Kim said. Almost every public library and some schools offer programs that motive kids with coupons from local businesses, free books and even larger prizes like iPods and bikes. Plus, a visit to your local library every week gives kids an opportunity to sift through books and find something they like. Like Kim said, it doesn’t matter what kids choose to read or why; what’s important is that they do.

Summer Reading Programs:

Here’s a list of links to summer reading programs at libraries in the Southeast Idaho area.

Grace Public Library:

Soda Springs District Library:

Larsen-Sant Public Library:

North Bingham Library:

Portneuf District Library:

Marshall Public Library:

Idaho Falls Public Library:

Madison District Library: