Once every year, the school bell releases an eager torrent of kids into our arms for months of summer fun. They leave behind the homework hassles and school tensions. As we spend more relaxed time with them, they float comfortably back into our sphere of influence. So let’s help them associate the magic of summer with the delight of reading.

Summer-reads outing. Create an early-summer tradition of visiting the library or bookstore (a used bookstore will do) so everyone (parents included) can emerge with a stack of summer reads. Give your son greater choice than ever—don’t hover or suggest—but feel free to do a sneak visit to the librarian or bookseller beforehand. Fill her in on your son’s reading level, topics, and favorite types of books and magazines. That way, she can make suggestions, or “happen to have” a pile of reads to push his way. You can also agree with your son beforehand that he gets to choose one book for you to read, and you get to choose one for him to read. Combine the trip with a stop for ice cream or pizza so he associates reading with a fun outing. Make sure each of you tucks a book or magazine into every backpack and beach bag headed out the door. If a book has a movie version, offer to pay your son’s way into the cinema after he has read the book.

Better yet, get everyone to read the book before the movie so you can have a lively discussion comparing the book and movie version later.


Summer projects. Summertime is a good time for projects ranging from kitchen science experiments to building a treehouse. So grab some reading on these topics. By letting him be the boss, you encourage reading without him even knowing it. “Read me those instructions again?” you might mumble around the nails you’re holding between your lips.

Road-trip stories. Road trip coming up? Great! Stock up on audiobooks with your kids’ input. During portions of the ride, too, try round-robin storytelling, where someone kicks off the first line of a made-up story, and each person adds a sentence or two. This builds an appreciation of storytelling and plot building.

Media blackout. What about all the movies and electronic devices you traditionally use on car rides to keep them occupied? That’s a winter tradition! Make summer different. Announce a media “blackout” period, to be filled with audiobook or storytelling time.

Reading on the fly. Plane ride coming up? Buy or borrow some books or magazines you know he’ll love and wrap each one up in colorful wrapping paper with ribbon. Tell him he gets to open one every hour, on the hour, during the plane ride. This can occupy kids for hours.

Camp reading. Serve up ghost stories with the roasted marshmallows around the campfire, read books aloud by kerosene lantern, or engage in round-robin family storytelling while hiking up a

trail. Find booklets on the history of the region and read them together. While building memories that will last a lifetime, plant a lifetime reading habit.

Yard-sale finds. What better time than summer to hit yard sales together? Just make sure he knows you’re after books as well as toys and gadgets. Summer is also a perfect time to organize a neighborhood book swap or book club.

Double the fun. Encourage your son to bring along a friend on your next trip to a bookstore or library. Buy or check out two copies of what interests them so they can read it together. This works especially well with a how-to book, as in, how to build a toy boat or backyard teepee. Buddy reading makes reading more social and “cool.”

Reading credits. Your son may feel he’s too old for the public library summer-reading lists or contests, but he’s never too old to propose privileges he could earn for his summer reading.

Excerpted from Jump-Starting Boys: Help Your Reluctant Learner Find Success in School and Life, by Pam Withers and Cynthia Gill (Viva Editions). All references (footnotes) contained in the book.