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In most of eastern North Carolina, the final bells of schools are ringing this week.  Children are excitedly looking forward to the next several school-free weeks.  Parents are making plans for vacations, trips to the pool and play dates.  They are juggling the abrupt change to the schedule of the family and providing child care for their newly freed offspring!  But what very few people are thinking about is the Summer Slide. 

What is the summer slide? It is the education ground that children often lose over the summer while they are without any instructional learning time.  Exactly how much ground is lost?  According to the National Summer Learning Association, a conservative estimate would be a backslide of approximately 22% or 2 months worth of instructional time.  This is why it is so common for teachers to spend the first month of school re-teaching the concepts from the previous year, thus robbing students of a month of new instruction.  Experts agree, however, that children who engage in reading over the summer experience a much lower rate of back sliding, many even gain educational ground.  They continue to hone their reading skills, comprehension, problem solving skills, vocabulary and more.

There are a number of reasons why children don’t like to read.  The primary reason is that children learn to read in school, and therefore, they come to view reading as work.  As a result of that, they don’t often cultivate the desire to read.  But, when we help children find their interests and imaginations inside of books, that desire is nurtured.  So, how can you encourage your child to read more?

Let your children catch YOU reading.  Studies show that much of children’s behavior is learned from watching their parents and other family members.  You need them to see you doing what you’re asking them to do.

Have lots of different kinds of reading material in your home. Whether it’s a traditional book, an e-reader, a magazine or a book on tape your child is reading.  The truth is, they can read on many websites or they can read the back of the cereal box.  The important thing is to get them reading, and anything that strikes their interest and entices them to read counts!

Make a distinction between homework and reading for pleasure.  As we mentioned earlier, children often associate reading with school and work. This is especially true if they feel like they’re being forced to read.  Use what you know about your child to your advantage.  Think about what their interests are and hone in on those.  This is reading for fun, so they get to choose.  If your child likes a particular TV show or character, you can often books that relate to them.  If they love to spend hours playing video games, find books that relate to specific games and gaming communities.  Does your child have a hobby or special interest?  When they are choosing books based on their own passions, they can begin to cultivate a desire to read and a love of reading.

Think about movies that are based on books.  Does your child have a favorite movie, such as Peter Pan or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe?  Consider reading the books and then celebrating with a viewing of the movie and eating popcorn.  You can even discuss the differences between the movie and the book and which they preferred.  This can be fun for the entire family!

Check out your local library.  Libraries are a great resource for avid and budding readers.  With a large supply of titles at their finger tips, children are sure to find a book that falls into their realm of interest.  Libraries typically also use activities and reading groups to incorporate reading and fun together for children of all ages.  Keep an eye out at your local library for events that will be occurring in your area.

Join a summer reading club.  Make it a challenge!  Kids, especially boys, often respond to challenges and competitions.  When a prize or bragging rights is attached to a challenge, some children can get extremely motivated to meet and even exceed the expectation.  There are many summer reading clubs and challenges available at local book stores, libraries, online reading clubs and may be even… your local bank.

This summer, First South Bank is instituting The League of Extraordinary Readers!  Beginning June 15, the League will be opened for membership and we invite your children to join us.  We take seriously our core value of taking a vested interest in our communities, and the future of our communities rests in the children of today.  We’re challenging participants to read 10 age appropriate books this summer for the chance to be entered in a drawing for one of three Kindle Fires!  So, come on!  Join the League of Extraordinary Readers.

(Restrictions apply.  Look for a full set of rules on our website and Facebook page beginning Monday, June 15).