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Woods: 5 ideas to reignite the spark for reading this school year

Photo of Charles Woods who is talking about strategies for kids to love reading
Charles Woods, pictured above, is executive director for Arizona Virtual Academy and Insight Academy of Arizona. (File Photos/DigitalFreePress.com)
By Charles Woods | Point of View

When summer break hits, school becomes a distant memory and most kids prefer to spend their days prioritizing FUN! From playing outside and leveling up in their favorite video games to watching movies and hanging out with their friends, reading has likely taken a backseat this season.

While we are advocates for rest and play to create happy, balanced lives, it can be hard for kids to get back into the swing of things once school is back in session.

Rather than a harsh reality check, introduce kids to a new reality: easing back into school days that can actually be fun! Check out five of our favorite ways to reignite the educational spark and change the way kids feel about reading.

Plan themed reading days

Whether you sit down with your kids to choose weekly themes or make it a surprise, pairing a good book with a hands-on activity or craft will automatically enhance the subject matter. Does your child love learning about animals? Select a book about wildlife and enjoy a family trip to the zoo when they finish the book! You could even pretend you’re on a safari in your own backyard or create origami animals together.

Are you raising a foodie? Choose a cooking-themed book and try some new recipes together. From gardening and sports to painting and theater, look for engaging ways to crossover your child’s interests with a book and watch school prep become fun for the entire family!

Have a book-to-movie night

With so many blockbuster smashes starting as books, kids will have plenty to choose from with this tried-and-true tip. You could start with standalone books like “Jumanji,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Bridge to Terebithia” or “Charlotte’s Web,” or dive into a series like “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “Hunger Games” or “Harry Potter.” As an avid reader might tell you, the book is usually better than the movie. Read it together as a family and watch the adaption to discuss the similarities and differences between them. This practice engages the imagination and helps with cognitive development, which keeps the mind sharp when you’re gearing up for a new school year.

Create a reading passport

Even if travel is out of the question, books can take you to faraway places without ever leaving your home. Let your creativity run wild by choosing anywhere in the world (real or imaginary) and finding a book that features that place. Make it an experience by designing a “reading passport” for your kids to record the books they read leading up to the first day of the new school year and add a stamp or sticker each time they complete a book. Include the title, author and date completed to record their “trip” and talk with them about their travels. You could even pair each destination in their passport with a dinner featuring local cuisine or partake in a common tradition or activity of the region.

Be enthusiastic and show genuine interest

Reading may not be your child’s favorite activity, but your behavior as a parent can go a long way to turn that around. Showing genuine excitement and enthusiasm for your child’s books will have a positive impact on their attitude and make them more likely to enjoy reading. While it’s typically an isolated activity, there is a reason book clubs exist: it’s fun to talk about what you’re reading with people who share your passion and discuss how the story is unfolding. Incorporate these practices into your household and ask your child questions about the book while sharing your own thoughts and recommendations. Lively discussions about the plot will engage and develop their critical thinking skills and boost reading comprehension in a way that appeals to their interests.

Make use of audiobooks

If you haven’t listened to an audiobook lately, this tip will be a treat for you, too! Voice actors often narrate the books and will take on the characters’ personalities to make the experience even more engaging. Allow children to listen to audiobooks during car rides or while relaxing to improve their listening skills. Consuming literature in this medium will also expand your child’s vocabulary while teaching them about pronunciation. It may even inspire their own storytelling abilities. If your child has a flair for the dramatic, incorporate a theatrical element into the experience and take turns reading chapters of a tangible book aloud with voices for each character. This will allow you both to truly immerse in the story and invites a deeper understanding and greater empathy.

Reading is the foundation of many aspects of the learning process, so finding ways to make it enjoyable not only benefits students in the context of a classroom but also opens the door to creating new favorite memories. As you incorporate these tips into your household, don’t forget to recognize your child’s milestones along the way with small rewards or celebrations. They’ll start to associate reading with positive experiences which helps to nurture their curiosity and develop a healthy appetite for learning. The limits of your imagination are all that’s stopping you from making this year’s school prep fun, so unleash your creativity, unlock your child’s potential and help them make this school year the best one yet!

Editor’s Note: Charles Woods, executive director for Arizona Virtual Academy and Insight Academy of Arizona, has served students, parents, educators and communities through his educational career for more than 19 years.

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