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9 ways to keep kids reading during summer break

Don’t let them take a vacation from reading.

Young girl reading book outdoors in the grass while smiling Credit: Getty Images / Wavebreakmedia

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The “summer slide” is the tendency for kids to lose academic skills over the long and lovely warmer months when school is out of session. Many parents I know (including me!) feel lucky if their children made any academic gains whatsoever during this crazy year. So the idea that more learning could be lost makes the “summer slide” feel less like a turn on neighborhood park equipment and more like a terrifying amusement park ride.

Luckily, there is a simple way to prevent—or at least lessen—the downward trajectory: reading! Reading exercises the brain, improves vocabulary and language patterns, grows empathy, increases attention span, decreases aggression, and raises test scores. Here are nine products to help your kids stay reading this summer.

1. The Epic App is like Netflix for books

On left, mother and daughter reading story on tablet together in front of blue background. On right, Epic app featuring some its latest features.
Credit: Epic

With the Epic digital library, the options for new books are endless.

As a school librarian, I’ve seen the magic of Epic first hand. Many educators use this “Netflix for books” as part of their instruction and I can see why. With over 40,000 popular, high-interest, and award-winning books in its library—as well as a read-along feature—it draws in both the most reluctant readers and satisfies the most voracious ones. Unlike other apps, your kids will likely be able to find the books their friends are all talking about. There is truly something for every interest, and it’s a lot cheaper than constantly purchasing the next book in the series.

Get three months of epic for $9.99

2. A cool book light that doubles as a bookmark

Blue Flexilight Pals Booklight Clip in book.
Credit: Gifts for Readers & Writers Store

Reading at bedtime just got a lot more fun.

There’s something just plain magical about reading in the dark by one solitary light. When I gave away book lights as part of my library-to-go program, parents sent me photos of their kids settling into their private reading life with a new sense of independence and wonder. I like this one from Amazon because it feels like a cute animal is along with them on their reading adventure.

Get the Flexilight Pals Booklight Clip on Amazon for $9.99

3. A Kindle just for kids

Kindle tablet in red case surrounded by sprinkles.
Credit: Amazon

Your children might enjoy this modern option better than a traditional book.

I’m a traditional hold-in-your-hands book person, but if you’re traveling anywhere this summer, nothing beats the slim, light, travel-friendly Kindle Kids Edition that comes with a cover. The Kindle screen is easy on the eyes and won’t stimulate your kids the way regular screens do.

It will never have that new book smell, or the satisfying crack of the book spine, but if you’re on the road, or if your kid wants books immediately, the Kindle Kids Edition is the way to go.

Get the Kindle Kids Edition on Amazon for $109.99

4. A book journal to keep track of what they read

Front page and introduction page of the book journal
Credit: Ooh lovely

Use this clever book journal to track your child's progress throughout the summer while school's not in session.

This sweet, appealing journal, filled with questions and friendly illustrations, is a way for kids to keep track of what they’ve read. With space to draw connections, explain how the book made them feel, and make note of new words, it can deepen the practice of reading.

Once an emotional connection is made, reading moves from the category of “task for school” to “important to me.” A reading journal is a great—and sort of sneaky—way to meaningfully link reading and writing for your child, which teachers will ask them to do through college.

Get the My Very Own Book Journal on Amazon for $7.99

5. An Audible subscription (yes, audiobooks count!)

Black and orange Audible logo
Credit: Amazon

Allow your child's mind to wander as they get lost in a fascinating audiobook.

There’s something so calming and transporting for kids about getting lost in an audiobook, especially when you pair it with another activity like drawing. Better yet, a great audiobook can make a tedious task like picking up toys or folding laundry fun and even relaxing. Even better, kids can listen to books that are above their actual reading level, allowing them to absorb literature that might otherwise intimidate them. I’ve looked for alternatives, but Audible simply has the most comprehensive collection, making it worth the monthly subscription price.

Sign up for Audible

6. A cozy reading nook

On left, young girl hanging in orange and gray Sky Nook. On right, young girl hanging in green and blue Sky Nook.
Credit: Fat Brain Toys

Currently wishing I had a comfy Sky Nook in my size to read in.

It only takes a few well-chosen props to change an otherwise empty corner into a reading nook. Maybe you’ll choose a comfy chair by a window that gets good light, or a canopy draped over a beanbag in their bedroom, or even this adorable, cocoon-like “sky nook” from Fat Brain Toys, which can be hung from a tree. A welcoming and cozy spot beckons a young reader to settle down and escape into a good book.

Get the Sky Nook at Fat Brain Toys for $39.95

7. Literati Kids Book Club subscription

Assorted books in Literati packaged box.
Credit: Literati

Literati offers variety for all ages and interests.

We are in a golden age of children’s literature. When I was growing up, it seemed we had only a handful of authors and tiles to choose from (Sweet Valley High, anyone?). But Harry Potter changed all that and ushered us into a new era. There are so many excellent books published these days, it can be overwhelming.

Literati Book Club does the hard work of selecting the best books for you. After you describe your reader, experts handpick great reads for you every month. The best part is that you only keep what you love.

Subscribe to Literati for $9.95 per month

8. A book of writing prompts

Blue front and back cover of a writing prompt book.
Credit: Chronicle Books

Your child will never be bored with this book–it has over 600 writing writing prompts inside!

Any teacher or author will tell you that reading and writing go hand in hand. For some kids, the entry point for reading is actually writing. Writer kids know they have something to say and have a natural inclination to tell stories. This fun book of writing prompts goes way beyond the typical classroom journal by sparking the imagination and exposing kids to various genres. The more they practice writing, the more they want to see how the pros (i.e., authors) do it.

Get 642 Things to Write About: Young Writer’s Edition on Amazon for $13.87

9. A library card

Mother and daughter reading book in library while smiling.
Credit: Getty Images / Global Moments

Getting back to the basics.

This may not be a product you can buy, but it’s the most valuable item on this list. As old-fashioned as it sounds, library cards—both of the digital and plastic variety—can usher in a world of reading possibilities. Now that libraries are opening up again, it’s a great time to rediscover these wondrous institutions, which house walking and talking book experts.

First, of course, there are the books to be checked out. Then there are the various programs libraries offer, from summer reading competitions to creative writing classes to maker-spaces. And don’t forget there are a vast array of digital resources, from magazines to graphic novels to audiobooks, that are entirely free.

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