Holiday reading hacks for kids

Ruth McGurk with husband, Adam, and their children, Felicity, 2, Imogen, 5, and Nicholas, 3. Pictures: Louisa Jones

PRECEDE: Ruth McGurk is a Geelong mum, primary school teacher, and author of the new children’s book The Dinosaur Did It. She shares her tips to keep kids reading over the summer break.

So, the holidays have rolled around again and amid organising the perfect Christmas, the family travel plans, and juggling work commitments, you’ve been put in charge of your child’s reading over the six-week break.

Fear not: there are ways to do this without feeling like a drill sergeant, and keeping your sanity intact.

Why do schools recommend this? Over the holidays it’s normal for kids to forget a little bit of what they’ve learned at school.

Sometimes referred to as the ‘summer slide’, it’s when skills get a bit rusty because students are out of practice and not engaging with learning in the same way they do at school.

Kids absolutely need a break from formal schooling, but encouraging reading during that break can help them to not fall too far back.

Here are some tips to get your kids’ noses stuck into a book.

Start small

Reading doesn’t just mean books.

If you’re happy to get the kids into the kitchen over the holidays, get them to read the ingredients and instructions in the recipe.

The same goes for craft activities and even putting toys together.

Ask your child to help you read out the steps to assemble that new trampoline while you put it together, or share the rules of the new board game they just got for Christmas.

They might be short texts but it all counts.

Leave reading material lying around

This might be a tough one if you prefer an ordered, uncluttered house, but leaving a small stack of picture books on the breakfast table can give kids something to do while they’re feeling under-stimulated with a mundane task.

Yep, you might end up with cereal on some of your favourite stories, but having it within reach provides extra opportunities for kids to have a quick flick through.

If you’re up for it, you can level up and stick some next to the toilet or in the seat pockets in your car.

And it doesn’t have to only be story books either. Theatre programs, footy records, Guinness Book of World Records, or even a magazine about their favourite activity all work.

For example, if your child is really into gaming, there are magazines that review new releases and discuss the latest trends (just be sure to check the content is appropriate first).

Any text about an area your child is interested in is worthwhile them reading, and might feature vocabulary they are not commonly exposed to in a fiction text.

Try audiobooks

This is perfect for that road trip on the way to your family holiday.

When it’s your turn to pick the music, pop an audiobook on instead.

There are fantastic recorded versions of novels and picture books you can play in the car via bluetooth or CD.

It doesn’t need to be the whole book, either – most books try to capture their readers by chapter three. Once you’ve got your kids hooked into the story, you can switch to the hard copy.

And if your child finds reading challenging, an audiobook is the perfect read-a-long companion while they follow the words on the page.

Best of all, these can be accessed free of charge through the library in-house or via their app.

The Geelong Regional Library Corporation (GRLC) uses the BorrowBox app and you simply use your membership number to access their huge range of titles.

Check out the library holiday program

And speaking of the library, the GRLC has a fantastic holiday program for kids aged 6 to 18 years old.

From craft, to coding, to LEGO, there really is something for everyone.

Jump onto the library website to check out what’s on offer.

And while you’re there, why not use the opportunity to encourage the kids to grab a book on the way out? Memberships are free, there are no late fees and the staff are always ready to pair your child with their perfect book.

Comfort reading is legitimate reading

You know how adults enjoy an easy beach read? Well, kids need that comfort, too.

Let your children read their old favourites. They will be revising vocabulary and getting a deeper understanding of the text each time they re-read it.

It’s the holidays, after all, so let them sit back and relax with familiar characters and storylines.

Let them choose their own adventure

Giving your child ownership of picking a new book can really ignite their interest.

The Geelong region is lucky to have brilliant independent bookshops like The Book Bird in Geelong West, Heads or Tales in Barwon Heads, Book Grove in Ocean Grove, and Torquay Books.

The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and well-versed in kid’s books on all different topics. Also, they can help caregivers branch out from the stuff we read growing up.

There truly is something to appeal to most interests, from books celebrating the Matildas, epic fantasy series, to funny graphic novels with heaps of pictures to support your child’s understanding of the story.

They’ll even point you in the direction of books by local authors, like Jackie Hosking, Stef Gemill, Sue Lawson, Shivaun Plozza and Samantha Ellen-Bound.

Be seen to be reading

This one is both incredibly powerful and often really hard to pull off.

When kids see their adults sitting down and enjoying a book it’s a validation of reading.

This can be hard if you’ve got very young children, but setting up a culture of reading in your home is fast-tracked when they see you reading, too.

So sit down with a cuppa and good book – it’s for the kids!

Getting your kids to read over the holidays is more than just worthwhile for their academics, it’s a fantastic way to relax after a busy school year.

If you can get creative with it, you’ll be setting your children along a path to becoming lifelong book lovers.

The Dinosaur Did It is published by Five Mile Press, and available in bookstores and online from January.