Thursday, May 17, 2012

Summer Reading Tips and Tricks

Summer is just around the corner if your children are in a traditional school. If you homeschool, summer may already have arrived! No doubt, there are some summer reading lists floating around that you have your eye on--perhaps your child's school has a couple of assigned books to read over the summer.

We are *finally* going to be putting up our own book lists next week!! We've organized these by grade and have filled them with books that are the "guarantees"--books children consistently enjoy and which we feel are of reasonably high quality. Megan has done the lion's share of this work--much of it during her years as a children's librarian. We hope they will be of help to you throughout the year, but particularly during summer.

Summer can be a great time to start a new series, but a few notes on "series":
  • If the protagonist ages throughout the series, odds are good the later books will be more mature in content and tone (Harry Potter is an excellent example of this). If you know you don't want your child reading the second half of a series, it might be wise to old off on the first half.
  • Series sometimes start out wonderfully but suddenly introduce more nefarious elements as the series progresses (or elaborate on things only hinted at in the first book). If we review a first book on this blog, please don't take it as a given that we'll like the entire series--unless noted.
  •  Series which tend to deliver consistency are the formulaic ones (such as mysteries), and these can be very fun during the summer.

While you wait eagerly for our coming lists, here are a few words of note in regards to your young readers:

For children almost and just recently reading independently: KEEP READING. Please do not let their hard work during the school year go down the drain. We have a LOT of lists of wonderful easy readers on this site. In addition, you should still be reading to your child: picture books and chapter books both.

For children who are reluctant readers: you might consider backing off a touch on the types of books these children read. Summer can be a great time to "hook" a reader--especially when the child gets to exert a bit more choice in the matter. While we don't want their primary diet to be this, graphic/cartoon novels, mysteries, and "drama in real life"/action-packed types of fiction can be a nice treat. Don't sweat it if they want to read a few books "below" their reading level. Keep reading to them as well.

For children who are voracious readers: I was one of these. No doubt. Megan probably was, too. One summer (around 4th grade?), I regularly read 4 Hardy Boys books a day. Yes, yes I did. And Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and even Agatha Christie. Here's something to keep in mind with these children: when they are reading so fast, odds are good they are not picking up on all the details that might make you or I squirm. This is especially true for mild sexual innuendo, British slang/foul language, and even the ramifications of some violence. Big vocabulary words? Your child is skipping right over those as well as anything he or she doesn't understand. In addition, it's worth pointing out that audio books make these sorts of things "stand out" in a way that silent reading does not. Your child can't "skip" the bad words and/or phrases he or she doesn't understand when an audio recording is reading the book expressively. There are many "classics" that fall into this category; they tend to be older books and are often much more discreet sexually than our modern books, but there may be a sprinkling of language--bad words we might pick up on but which probably go right over your child's head--as well as some violence. We encourage you still to exercise discernment, most definitely, and to make sure they are reading a nice variety of books. But you probably don't need to sweat the details. Precocious voracious readers in the 1st-3rd grade window are often the hardest because they often aren't mature enough to read what they're intelligent enough to read. Remember: talk to your children about what they are reading--conversationally, not "teacherly" or confrontationally, and they will probably tell you a lot!

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