7 tips for keeping children reading through the summer holidays

Published on: 11 June 2024

The Reader Teacher Scott Evans shares his ideas to prevent the dreaded ‘summer slump’.

An illustration of a child smiling on a swing

Illustration: Fiona Lumbers

As the days get longer and the temperatures rise, signalling the start of summer (yay!), children's attention soon shifts to the thought of the upcoming holidays. However, amidst the excitement that they bring, families often find themselves facing a common challenge: how can they keep their kids reading during those six weeks off from school?

1. Join your library's Summer Reading Challenge

For over 25 years, the Summer Reading Challenge - organised by The Reading Agency in partnership with public libraries across the UK - has successfully encouraged children to read for pleasure during the summer holidays.

Taking place from July to September, it invites children aged 4 to 11 to read six or more books of their choice over this time (with the aim of approximately one a week). This could involve completing a series they enjoy or exploring a variety of genres and formats, including novels, non-fiction, poetry, picture books, graphic novels, old favourites and new discoveries.

Each year, the challenge has a different theme. This year's is 'Marvellous Makers', which seeks to inspire children's inner storytellers, motivating them to be curious and to tell their own stories through various creative outlets.

Children who participate receive a special collector's folder to track their progress and earn rewards like stickers and certificates as they go. If they complete the challenge by reading at least six books, they also stand a chance to win even bigger prizes. Libraries often hold a range of related events and activities to enhance the experience and further engage children and families in the joy of reading.

Ask to register at your local library.

2. Dive into summer-themed books

An illustration from the front cover of Hello Summer by Jo Lindley, featuring a child jumping in the air surrounded by sea creatures

With the sun shining, why not introduce your child to a range of summer-themed books that capture the essence of the season? Whether it's tales of beachside adventures, camping escapades or magical summer holidays, these books can evoke the spirit of summer and spark your child's imagination. Look for books with vivid descriptions of summertime activities and settings to fully immerse them in the experience.

Here are some summer-themed reading recommendations suitable for various ages:

  • Hello Summer by Jo Lindley (Ages 3+)
  • Wild Summer: Life in the Heat by Sean Taylor, Alex Morss and Cinyee Chiu (Ages 5+)
  • The Summer Dolphin by Holly Webb and David Dean (Ages 7+)
  • The Super Sunny Murder Club, edited by Serena Patel and Robin Stevens, illustrated by Harry Woodgate (Ages 9+)
  • A Poem for Every Summer Day by Allie Esiri

Or they could choose something in the library or bookshop.

3. Organise outdoor reading adventures

An illustration of a family going for a walk through a park together

Illustration: Fiona Lumbers

Make the most of the (hopefully!) sunny weather by taking reading outside. Pack a picnic basket filled with books and snacks and head to a local park, beach or outdoor space for an al fresco reading session. Encourage children to spread out a blanket, soak up the sunshine and lose themselves in a book while surrounded by nature's beauty. Just remember to bring some sun cream too!

On clear summer nights, you could also transform this activity into a 'storytelling under the stars' session or gather around a campfire and take turns sharing stories. Whether from books, your own family traditions, or personal experiences, the flickering flames and the twinkling night sky provide the perfect backdrop for telling tales of adventure or cherished memories and moments.

4. Incorporate reading into holiday travel

If you're lucky enough to be heading off on a road trip or catching a flight to somewhere sunny, make reading an essential part of your holiday travel plans. Bring a selection of books, audiobooks or e-readers to accompany you and your family for those long stretches of travel time. This way, not only will the journey fly by, but you'll also be nurturing a love for reading that'll last long after the holiday tan fades away.

You could even match the reading material with the destinations you're visiting, choosing stories set in those places or factual books about their history and culture. This thoughtful pairing of reading and travel not only makes the experience more engaging and meaningful but also helps children form deeper connections between the books they read and the places they explore.

5. Explore events and festivals

A group of young children playing together

Illustration: Fiona Lumbers

Keep an eye out for literary events, storytelling sessions, interactive workshops and author signings happening in your area. Lots of cities and towns across the UK also host local and national book festivals, which can expose children to new books and authors, help them connect with fellow book lovers and ignite a passion for reading by providing opportunities to meet the people behind the books.

Many of these events offer free entry for families, while some also feature digital programmes and author talks, allowing you to engage from the comfort of your own home.

6. The power of postcards

Postcards also provide a fantastic way to keep children engaged with reading during the summer break. Ask your friends and family who are going on holiday to send postcards to you and your children, offering them a delightful opportunity to not only learn about their adventures from different destinations around the world but enjoy short snippets of reading along the way.

7. Don't panic!

If your child isn't showing much interest in reading during the summer break, there's no need to worry. Instead, try leaving a range of reading materials scattered around your home and garden and incorporating reading into everyday routines, such as bedtime stories or reading aloud during a sunny day. By creating a reading-friendly environment and ensuring books are easily accessible, you might ignite your child's interest in reading when they least expect it.

Scott Evans, also known as The Reader Teacher, is a primary school teacher and author of 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Reading for Pleasure, available now.

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