I love reading, but I lost the love of it just after college. I guess so much required reading for four years resulted in a craving to rest, but I wish I had not given in to the temptation. I wish I had chosen to force myself to keep reading, even if it were easy reading fiction. A few years later when I picked up a book, it was like my brain had forgotten how to do it. Mentally, I could process the books but my attention span was shorter and the way I crafted pictures in my head was not as magnificent as it once had been. It took some time to get my reading muscle back into shape.
Reading is like working out. Reading keeps muscles in shape, just like exercising keeps muscles in shape. If you don’t read, you lose literacy skills. If you don’t exercise, you lose strength.
This summer kids all over the world will experience what is called “the summer slide” or “brain drain.” They’ll actually lose some of their ability to read and think because they stop doing it for a few months.
I’m not joking.
A University of Tennessee, Knoxville, study revealed that kids who don’t read over the summer lose two months of development. Kids who do read? They gain a month of proficiency to take back into the classroom. Here are five ways you can keep your child reading over the summer. I’ve even included some ways to use reading to help her along in her faith journey, and been sure to only include specific books that will be good for your daughter’s brain in terms of moral development. (See my blog on that topic for more about how what she reads impacts her.)
Make a road trip of it.
Some of the more famous books have destinations worth seeking out during your family vacation. For example, read Little House On The Prairie and then make a road trip to the Little House On The House Prairie museum in Independence, Kansas.
Host a local book field trip with friends.
You don’t have to break the bank to have an experience with a book. You could invite a bunch of friends to read one that’s easy to use as a theme-based field trip. For example, read Charlotte’s Web and visit a farm with pigs or a lab with spiders!
Plan a mother/daughter special date around a book.
A favorite book of mine is Black Beauty. You could read the book together, and then find a place to take a local trail ride before you discuss the moral purpose of the book. It was written in part to encourage owners of horses to treat them better because they were often mistreated in our culture when we used them for transportation. You could create some great conversations about using the responsibility of using a talent like writing to influence or God’s command for us to provide stewardship of animals in Genesis.
Help them meet the authors, especially if they are good role models.
Kids of all ages can be inspired by meeting the authors of a book they have enjoyed. You’ll sometimes find an author making an appearance at a bookstore or speaking event. Check their authors' website to see if they’re coming near you. They might also offer online events!
The team that wrote my True Girl fiction series has provided an exciting online book club for girls ages 7-12. Each book in this fiction series teaches an important lesson, and our live online book club offers you both a fun biblical teaching experience with the author of each book and a connecting experience for you and your girl on the topics of:
- Boy Craziness
Give them a Bible they enjoy, and make it a goal to read through a big chunk of Scripture as a family before you celebrate with a special event.
If you’re a Christian, one of the most compelling reasons to learn to read and think is to use the Word of God well and accurately. We do a disservice to our children when we expect them to read a Bible translation that’s complicated and difficult for our own minds to understand. I used the New Living Translation when I wrote Lies Girls Believe. I enjoyed it a lot and found it to be mentally accessible for tweens.
Give each family member a Bible reading goal based on their developmental abilities, encourage each other as you press toward the mark, then celebrate. Maybe you’ll take a family camping trip or host an outdoor movie night for the neighborhood!
Dannah Gresh is the founder of True Girl, a ministry that brings moms and daughters closer to each other and closer to Jesus. True Girl provides connection experiences through books, online Bible studies, and live events. You can learn more about her at dannahgresh.com.