Will Ferrell once described children as “precocious and full of wonderment.”
For many parents, Ferrell’s observation rings true – kids often chase adventure like heat-seeking missiles, while analyzing their environment with the precision of a nuclear physicist.
During the summer months, when the weather is fantastic and time is aplenty, kids will leave school days far behind, challenging parents to bridge the gap in terms of dedicated reading time. Some experts believe that a parent’s effectiveness instilling good reading habits in their children over the summer has a significant impact on their overall language development.
“If a child doesn’t read over the summer, their reading level may drop as much as two grade levels,” says Linda Bradley, education instructor at Columbia College of Missouri. “(Teachers) hope that kids read at least 10 minutes a day.”
To help parents keep their kids on track, Bradley recommends amassing a large, diverse collection of Newberry and Caldecott award-winning books, which represent some of the best works in children’s literature. She also advises parents find a “hook book,” a book that captures a child’s attention based on their interests.
“You have to get your kids to want to read,” says Bradley. “Parents have to ask ‘What’s going to get them to want to read rather than playing ball or playing video games?’”
So, what book does Bradley recommend?
“’In Front of God and Everybody’ is a must-read,” says Bradley. “It’s multi-generational and a beautiful book. I gave it to my husband … he took it to work and had nurses and doctors reading it, who then took it home and had their kids reading it.”
As for a can’t-miss author, Bradley recommends Gary Paulsen, the inimitable author of books such as ‘”Hatchet” and “Harris and Me.”
While reading to your child at least 10 minutes each day is important, Dr. Teresa VanDover, associate professor of education at Columbia College of Missouri, feels that’s just the first step. To ensure a child truly absorbs the information, she suggests parents have a post-game of sorts with their kids, discussing and analyzing what they’ve just read.
“The human connection is so important,” says VanDover. “(Children) make sense of the world around them not only by what they see, but what they experience. I would encourage young moms to sit with their child on their lap, go through a picture book and ask, ‘Do we know anyone who’s had this type of experience?’”
VanDover, who also served as a teacher and administrator in the Columbia Public School system for more than 20 years, hopes that parents invest the time necessary for their kids to learn.
“It makes a significant difference when a child comes from a home where they’re being read to on a consistent basis. They have a greater vocabulary, their comprehension is in place and they’re ready to learn.”
So, for parents looking to keep their precocious, wonderment-filled children on track this summer, VanDover and Bradley recommend getting reacquainted with an old friend, the public library.