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How to Get Your Child Reading Over the Summer

Summer vacation is well under way and many children are enjoying the break from reading, writing, and mathematics! The next two months is the perfect time for relaxation and spending the day playing however, summer is also the perfect time to prepare your child for the upcoming school year. Every year I get a number of parents asking me how to get their child interested in books. The research on the topic points to many different reasons why but below I discuss how to best create interest in books for your child.

Research shows parents and teachers of preschool children typically devote more time to stories than to informational books, and teachers also include more storybooks in classroom book areas (Duke 2000). This can be from the belief that informational books are more difficult and less appealing for young children than stories.

This is confirmed in a study, where researchers found that teachers in Canada and United States thought narratives were easier than informational books for preschoolers, and also more appealing, while Korean teachers held exactly the opposite view. Not surprisingly, the books these preschool teachers and parents read aloud and included in their classroom libraries strongly reflected their beliefs. (Lee 2011).

I have seen it and I know informational books peak children’s interest in reading. If you want your child reading more this summer read below and see how these types of books will not only motivate your child to read more but will also increase their intelligence, knowledge, vocabulary, comprehension, understanding of abstract concepts, and improve their ability to have greater understanding of narrative or story books.

The research shows informational books strengthen young children’s learning in many ways most people haven’t considered.


Informational Books ARE Interesting!

The content of informational books is interesting to most preschoolers and children. It sparks their curiosity and interest in science, math, geography, biology and more. Informational books inspire our children to question and ponder concepts on a deeper level. Some young children actually like informational texts far better than stories (Caswell & Duke 1998; Correia 2011; Duke 2004). Having access to informational books can affect a child’s interest in books and in reading.

This affective response is related to a child’s reading success (Guthrie, Schafer, & Huang 2001), which makes sense because children who are interested in books read more and develop greater reading skill. They also acquire more content knowledge and associated vocabulary. Did you know- the majority of new vocabulary acquired during the school years comes from the books that children read? (Nagy, Anderson, & Herman 2006).

When children have access to and read informational books, they have a better chance to develop an interest in books. (Gambrell 2011).


Informational Books Improve Your Child's Vocabulary

Informational books contain many sophisticated technical words and explain them plainly and clearly, reading this kind of book helps children learn higher-level vocabulary. In contrast, stories contain fewer technical terms and provide very little explicit information about their meanings. As a result, children must infer the meanings of unfamiliar words, on their own, when listening to stories, which are not always accurate, or they can learn them from information teachers or family members provide.

In the informational book, Crayfish by Lola M. Schaefer she illustrates the explicitness of explanations typically found in informational texts. This book’s first page says, “Crayfish are sea animals without bones. They are invertebrates” (p. 4). In this case, invertebrates is explained in the first sentence (i.e., “without bones”).

Parents can also provide additional support for word meanings, because young children do not always link information from one sentence to information provided in another. Your comments can also foster broader and deeper word learning for your child.

Children can learn more about a technical word’s meaning and how it applies to other instances. Unlike the connected ideas and flow found in storybooks, many informational books are written with one fact or explanation per page, which makes it easy to stop and comment after reading each one.


Increase Your Child Content Knowledge

Informational books help children learn about things that are impossible or impracticable to experience first-hand. Even when first-hand access to information is possible, informational books allow children to see things they might not otherwise notice.


Increase Your Child's Intelligence with Dense and Abstract Language

Because informational books are packed densely with content words, their grammar differs from the grammar in stories (Nagy & Townsend 2012). Informational books also contain verb forms that are timeless (e.g., “Crayfish are . . . ” “Crayfish live . . . ” “Rocks do not melt . . . ”), rather than past tense verbs that you would find in stories.

In addition to giving children access to vocabulary and content information, hearing informational books read aloud familiarizes children with language of a specific kind. This knowledge helps all children comprehend content area books they will read in school (i.e., science and social studies textbooks), and it seems especially helpful to children who are learning English as a second language (Council of Chief State School Officers 2012; Kelley 2010).


Informational Books Improve Comprehension

Although children do not need to understand all of the facts in every story to enjoy and comprehend most of it, the more a child understands, the better.

A good example of such a story is Farfallina & Marcel by Holly Keller. Children will realize why Farfallina (a caterpillar, early in the story) does not return to her friend, Marcel, for such a long time only if they understand that the life cycle of a butterfly or moth includes a metamorphosis from caterpillar to the adult butterfly. Similarly, children will only realize that the butterfly appearing later in the story is still Farfallina, not a different creature altogether from the caterpillar they met earlier, if they have knowledge of a butterfly’s life cycle.

It takes time, of course, for children to acquire the full range of content knowledge that would inform them all of the stories they hear. It is realistic for parents to help their child develop content knowledge in some areas and then support their use of it to understand some of the stories they hear.

This summer expose your child to informational books and expect great learning and peaked interest to arouse their curiosity about topics all the while motivating them to read! One might even consider studying beforehand places you visit this summer or if they have informational books on site pick one up and watch your child read away and take a deeper interest in it!

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