Q: We just got the end-of-school-year advice to make sure our kids read over the summer. In years past, teachers sent home suggested books by grade level, but not this time. My two boys (ages 9 and 10) would play Minecraft all summer if we let them. Is it really important to make them read?
A: Use the word "entice," not "make." Summer reading shouldn't be a forced march. And yes, it's important that they read.
Like any skill, kids get better at reading the more they practice. Summer reading keeps kids' skills sharp. Research by the National Summer Learning Association shows that students who don't read when school is out lose ground, putting them behind when they return to class.
Summer reading should be pure pleasure, says Carl Harvey, library media specialist at North Elementary School in Noblesville, Indiana.
"Kids are more likely to want to read when they select their own books and magazines, and the format -- paper or digital," he says. "They are also more likely to read when parents enjoy some stories with them."
Here are some of the best ways to find reading materials for the lazy days of summer:
-- Check in with your school librarian. "They know current titles kids love," says Harvey. Some school libraries will lend books and digital devices over the summer.
-- Visit your public library often. "Libraries have special summer programming and events to attract young readers," Harvey adds. "Many display their new books and new authors. Check out a stack, enjoy what appeals and return the rest. Read and repeat throughout the summer."
-- Get hooked on an author or a series. If your boys like a book by one author, chances are that they'll like others. "Boys appreciate humor, fantasy and irreverence," says Jon Scieszka, author of several kids' books, including "The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!" (Puffin, 1996) and "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales" (Viking Juvenile, 1992). His website, www.guysread.com, lists titles of "books that guys have told us they like."
-- Connect with their passion. If they love Minecraft and video games, then mine that interest, urges Harvey: "Your librarian can recommend titles of books that appeal to gamers and extend their interests." You won't be the first mother to check out "Minecraft: Essential Handbook" (Scholastic Inc., 2013).
-- Load digital devices with e-books. While you're sitting in traffic, your 10-year-old can be flying through the first volume of "Star Wars: Dawn of the Jedi" (Dark Horse Comics, 2012) on your Kindle.
-- Stock up at garage sales. "You'll find great, inexpensive kids' books at tag sales," says Dallas reading expert Dr. Delores Seamster. Read, enjoy and pass on.
-- Subscribe to magazines. Kids look forward to getting magazines in the mail. "Our 10-year-old is a Minecrafter who devours Popular Science," says Chris Abraham, a New York parent. "His younger brother, a Yankee fan, loves Sports Illustrated for Kids. They open the magazines the minute they arrive."
-- Find suggestions at greatschools.org, which lists favorite books by grade levels K-5, and commonsensemedia.org, which reviews children's titles by age.
-- Make reading for pleasure a year-round goal. "Keep up the fun reading once school starts," says Harvey. "Your boys will learn that reading about what they love is a great way to wind down after a day of school."
(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.)