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Easy and Affordable Rewards that Encourage More Reading

For many parents now working from home, or struggling with safe childcare options, or just dealing with the aftermath of kids who have already been stuck at home for months before summer even started, this time period likely presents many new challenges that most of us have never faced. Encouraging your child to keep reading can feel like one more daunting task on the never-ending to do list. We get it. We feel that way, too, sometimes. Honestly.

Some libraries are stepping up to the plate with fantastic virtual or socially distant summer reading programs. If you haven’t yet checked that out, please do so. My library has done incredible work moving their program online, and it has actually made my work-parenting balance easier this summer. Uninterrupted time to respond to emails while they happily read or do simple activities? Yes, please.

But if your library has not, or it is structured in a way that doesn’t work for your family, there are still simple rewards you can offer your child to keep them reading this summer (and into the fall and winter!)

Simple Reading Rewards for Busy Parents

Watch the Movie

If ever there was a summer for plopping yourselves down as a family and watching a movie at home, this is it! My oldest is currently reading Wrinkle in Time, and we are so excited to watch the movie when he’s done. It was a really easy way to get him to consider switching from his typical genres of humor, sports, or historical fiction, to a classic science fiction novel.

Eat or Cook Something From the Book

This doesn’t have to be hard or complex. I once brought Tootsie Roll Pops to my book club meeting because the main character mentioned them as a favorite snack. Or, if the mood strikes, you can turn it into a big project, like made-from-scratch peach crumble after reading James and the Giant Peach. If food isn’t a natural fit, is there something else from the book that your child can try? Maybe a card game or a song or even another book mentioned within the pages?

Learn More About the Author

Most authors have their own websites, some more robust than others. More popular authors often have cool, interactive features on their sites that you can check out and expand the fun found from within the pages (like comic book templates on Dav Pilkey’s site). Or just learn about what they’re writing next (did you know book trailers exist, just like movie trailers?) Also, search out videos on YouTube, perhaps discovering more about the author’s writing or research process. It’ll give your child a back stage pass to the magic. Or send a letter to the author! Imagine the excitement if you get a response!

Read with a Friend

Reach out to your child’s circle of friends and see if they’d like to read together virtually (or listen to an audio book together socially distant-style in your yard or the park). The kids could all read the same book and then gather on Zoom to chat about it. You’re likely already spending a few minutes arranging mutual video game playing time, right? (Raises hand…) If a long book feels too clunky, maybe a short article on a mutual interest or hobby, or listen to a podcast and then discuss.

If the friend dynamic isn’t ripe for this, consider asking a grandparent, aunt, or uncle to read a book with your child. “Storytime sessions” reading a picture book over Facetime are such a great idea for younger children, and older children might love reading a classic that their grandparents read if they knew they could chat about it together. My dad read Hatchet when he learned my youngest was reading it, and they had an adorable conversation about it after.

Find Ways to Retell

With younger children, suggest they play school and teach their “students” about the book they just read. Or share their thoughts with stuffed animals at a tea party. Older children might love being the center of attention when you make their recent book the topic of dinner conversation one evening (my family of introverts is always looking for new conversation topics after the 3,000th family dinner in a row!) Artsy children could create a new and improved cover for the book and then explain their design to you. Kids who love a challenge would get a kick out of writing questions about the book for an online quiz (Kahoot is a good option) to stump family or friends. This is especially fun if they’ve read a nonfiction book.

Buy the Next Book

If your finances allow, treating your child to their next great read is always a fitting reward! Consider supporting your local bookstore or a black-owned bookstore with your purchase. If your budget is tight, we’ve provided a lot of virtual resources for getting free books right now. Many libraries are either re-opening or offering curbside pickup now as well.

You might notice that all of these ideas don’t involve buying junk. I know libraries and teachers and schools are often operating on shoestring budgets, and rewards sometimes look like a stale jolly rancher or plastic spider rings or any other cheap thrill to entice kids into good behavior, completing homework, etc. We sympathize with those circumstances, but we encourage parents and caregivers to look beyond those options with more book-related rewards, like those listed above. If you’re curious about this, the book No More Reading for Junk by Barbara Marinak and Linda Gambrell really expanded our thinking on this.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Where to Access Free Books for Kids During Covid-19

Depending on where you live, you and your family are likely well over a month into quarantine. Even the most prepared parent or caregiver is probably running low on new, fun books to read. Libraries and schools across the country are closed, most bookstores are closed (although many are offering curbside pickup or delivery, so do try to support them if you are financially able), and even Amazon deliveries are delayed understandably in order to focus on essential shipping needs. 

With many families facing very tight and sometimes dire financial circumstances right now, creative ways to get free books into the hands of children have never been more needed. 

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Reading During the COVID-19 Quarantine: Now is the Time to Raise a Real Reader

With schools (and everything else) closed and lots (and lots and lots) of extra time at home, a golden opportunity has been presented to us parents and caregivers. We have time to read. So do our children. Research has shown us that students are far more likely to read independently and successfully if given time and choice. That’s pretty much all we have right now, right?

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Books and Series To Read When Children Need An Escape

I had just finished reading Erin Entrada Kelly’s beautifully written book Lalani of the Distant Sea when I got a text from my sister about an assignment her fifth grader had just completed: 

He has to write an argumentative essay that names a word of the year, and then defend it. He chose “altercation.” And then wrote paragraphs about mass shootings, everyone fighting about global warming, the potential war with Iran, and immigration. Imagine at 10 years old, the word you think best describes the world is altercation. 

My dreamy thoughts from Lalani quickly came to a halt as I considered this. My sensitive nephew’s world view is just so different from what I remember mine being at age 10. While I could name the current president (Ronald Reagan), my primary troubles were saving enough money for more stickers for my sticker album or wondering if Friday’s episode of Full House would be a rerun. 

It’s not always feasible to offer our children opportunities to escape the current events of both their immediate world and the larger, global world.

But books can be that temporary vacation from reality and offer us (adults and children alike) a much needed respite from the constant barrage of pain and suffering.

Whole worlds are awaiting us between the covers of books. As a long-time advocate of realistic fiction as a tool to develop empathy and understanding, I’ve recently found myself drawn more to fantasy. It’s like my brain and my heart simply need to disconnect from our reality from time to time. 

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Book Review: Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

Over the course of my adult years, I’ve dipped in and out of a few book clubs. One of the reasons I love participating in book clubs is that it inevitably inspires me to read books I might not otherwise select myself. Such is the case with Renee Watson’s Piecing Me Together. I typically enjoy reading young adult books, but I’m not sure I would have stumbled upon this title without the encouragement of my book club.

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Fact vs. Fiction: Learning What’s Real and What’s Not Through Reading

I was a journalism major, graduating in 2002. Thousands of miles away, at the exact moment I was practicing how to craft compelling, accurate newspaper headlines and write engaging magazine articles, Mark Zuckerberg was inventing Facebook in his dorm room at Harvard and changing how we get our news forever. I often wonder how drastically different my journalism education would be if I was a student now and not pre-social media.

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Family Favorite Reads from 2018-2019

The 2018-2019 school year is in officially in the books for our part of the country and nearing the end for most everyone else. As classroom teachers helped kids collect memories for yearbooks and best of lists, we wondered what books members of our families will remember most. And be sure you’re following us on social media this summer: we’ve taken the #bookaday challenge and we’re sharing book recommendations each and every day! (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)

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Tips for Making Spelling Practice Easier

It’s always around late April and May when our after school homework routine starts getting more than a little unruly. Motivation is lacking and warmer weather outside beckons. Practicing spelling week after week is high on the list of boring, routine tasks for my kids… dare I say most kids?

We can debate the merits of assigning weekly spelling lists, but the reality is it is still prevalent as a common assignment. (We don’t mean to be dismissive of spelling altogether; there are studies that suggest that as students’ spelling improves, so does their reading and writing skills.)

Keep these three words in mind as you help your child work through spelling: manageable, personal, and fun.

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