Q: My son's second-grade teacher said he should "read all summer," so he doesn't forget his new skills. How much time does she mean? Also, I read each day to my 1-year-old daughter, but she often won't sit still to finish the book. Reading is so important and I want both of them to become good readers.
A: Chances are excellent that your children will become lifelong readers if you create a home environment where reading is exciting and a source of pleasure, not pressure. What does that home look like?
"It's a place where kids see their parents reading and enjoying it," says reading expert Keith Garton. "It's a place where children are read to regularly. It's a home rich in literature -- with books, magazines, newspapers and digital devices that offer up a range of reading for the adults and children in residence. It's a home where parents monitor TV time, plan weekly trips to the library and snap up children's books at garage sales. It's a home where writing is encouraged -- with plenty of paper to scribble on."
This summer, encourage your son to spend 15 to 30 minutes each day reading about topics he's interested in.
"This can mean reading to and with him, as well as having him read independently," says Garton, founder of children's book publisher Red Chair Press.
"Most local libraries have summer reading programs designed to keep kids' skill levels strong," he says. "Check out an armful of books so he'll have choices. Get another armful on the next trip. Enroll him in any summer sessions at the library. Include e-books, comic books, magazines -- whatever engages him."
Help him make connections with his reading. For example, if you're taking a trip to a zoo, read an issue of Zoobooks magazine (zoobooks.com) or the Dr. Seuss classic "If I Ran the Zoo." Go to the zoo's website and read the latest news.
"By connecting his reading with daily life, you teach your son the utility and pleasure of reading," says Garton.
Don't worry if your daughter won't sit still for reading. Just take cues from her. If she's wiggly, set aside the picture book for a time when she's less distracted, such as right before she takes a nap or goes to bed. The act of reading a little every day is what is important, notes Garton.
Your son might find it fun to read some simple picture books to his younger sister.
"Find books at his reading level with a lot of color in the illustrations or strong, bold images," Garton suggests. "Show him how to read with expression; point to the illustrations and ask questions while reading. This will help engage her in the story and stay focused. E-books are a great way to do this, since many e-books include interactivity with characters that move or make sounds and highlighted text to help her follow along."
Nothing helps a young reader grow like reading aloud to an appreciative audience!
(Do you have a question about your child's education? Email it to Leanna@aplusadvice.com. Leanna Landsmann is an education writer who began her career as a classroom teacher. She has served on education commissions, visited classrooms in 49 states to observe best practices, and founded Principal for a Day in New York City.)