Summer reading primer for kids: Start a love story with books

Vancouver Province, July 03, 3013, by Dana Gee 

8688226.jpgIt’s summer and you’ve got a kid standing in front you uttering those dreaded two words: I’m bored.

Luckily one of the best ways to combat nothing-to-do syndrome is also one of the simplest solutions. Grab your kids, head to the nearest library or book store and turn them on to the timeless treasure that is a good book.

“Books were a huge part of my childhood. Road trips equals books,” says Calgary-based young adult novelist Janet Gurtler.

Gurtler, whose latest offering is How I Lost You, is happy to report her own kid is continuing the summer page-turning tradition.

“We have a cabin in B.C. and a son who is 12 and it’s when we go out there that he does a lot of reading.”

To succeed at getting kids to read, experts say you should be prepared to practise what you preach.

“If kids see parents enjoying reading, then they’ll copy,” says Michael Katz of Vancouver-based children’s book publisher Tradewinds.

“In the evening, don’t turn on the TV. Sit down and read for an hour and get everyone in the family to read.”

Cynthia Nugent, an award-­winning kids book author and illustrator, recommends reading to children.

“To teach kids to become readers, read to them when they are kids,” says Nugent, a workshop leader at the Vancouver Public Library ­summer reading camp and whose next book, Mister Got to Go Where You Are, is out in the fall.

“It is the physical closeness that stimulates the brain, it is not just intellectual.”

Vancouver based education expert Terry Small ( says reading with and to your kids has many benefits — and not all of them literacy-based.

“It’s so important for kids to learn how to focus on one thing at a time and work on attention density. Books help with that,” says Small, adding that novels help kids develop empathy and relationship skills.

Cozy Classics have a kid-friendly twist

Speaking of relationships, reading with and to your kids will pay off as kids grow up, said Small.

“It is kind of digging a well before you are thirsty, to quote the old proverb, because there will be some tough times in the teen years and if you have developed that relationship and laid the groundwork, then reading becomes a natural way to connect on that level it also becomes a way to talk about ideas,” Small says.

“Also, kids figure out we spend our time on what’s important — and if mom and dad are willing to spend time with me I must then be important as a person and then, by extension, if we are reading and interacting with books, then books must be important.”

According to a 2008 study in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, young children whose parents read aloud to them will do better in school and are more likely to develop a love of books and reading.

A 2011 study by the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development found that “children whose parents frequently read with them in their first year of school are still showing the benefit when they 15.”

So once you’ve got the kids interested in stocking up on books for the summer, the next step might involve a little detective work. But you don’t have to be quite as clever as Sherlock Holmes to figure out that your kid would like to read mysteries.