As parents, we don’t just want our children to read – we want them to read for pleasure. The long summer vacation is an ideal time to help develop your child’s lifelong love for reading and improve their language and literacy skills. Whether it’s self-directed reading or parent-child read aloud, it will help to avoid the so-called summer slide. Studies show that children can lose up to two months’ of reading performance over the summer months, and research suggests that the unstructured activity of reading for fun will do more to keep children’s minds sharp and engaged than weeks of holiday maths and science homework.
There’s growing awareness of why reading really matters. According to research from the Scholastic Kids & Family Reading Report 2018, 80% of children aged six to 17 years agree that summer reading will help them during the school year. The survey of students in the US by the global children’s publisher also found that, on average, children read eight books over the summer, but this varies widely by age. To encourage their children to read, 56% of parents are taking books with them on vacation, 45% put limits on screen time, and 44% build reading into their child's daily summer routine.
Whether you’re heading to the bookshop or the library, you’ll find a wide selection of books targeted at children of different age groups. A great starting point is the shortlisted titles for the Bangkok Book Awards; this annual initiative is run by a group of international school librarians in Thailand including Bangkok Patana School and NIST International School.
Sal Flint, head of libraries at Bangkok Patana School, recommends the books of Pie Corbett, an English educational trainer, writer, author and poet who works extensively in UK schools. Flint says, “We have an area in the library where we outline his philosophy about reading, and have multiple copies of all of his titles for the different age groups.”
For pre-schoolers, Corbett’s list includes We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, The Gingerbread Man, Where’s Spot, Dear Zoo and Mog and Meg, which are all very repetitive and include rhymes and songs. “This makes them easy for children to join in with and the experience of reading becomes interactive.”
In Year 1, Corbett recommends picture books that explore emotions and “lend themselves to setting up a variety of playing situations using toys, costumes and puppets.” These include Elmer (David McKee), The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Judith Kerr), Cops and Robbers (Allan Ahlberg), and Dogger (Shirley Hughes).
Children in Year 2 are encouraged to share both chapter books and picture books that encourage them to “use their imagination". Suggested titles include Flat Stanley (Jeff Brown), Traction Man (Mini Grey), The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark (Jill Tomlinson), Fantastic Mr Fox (Roald Dahl), and Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Book? (Lauren Child).
Corbett says that children in Year 3 need “meaty picture books” as well as deep, rich reads with a great storyline. Try The Iron Man (Ted Hughes), The Sheep-Pig (Dick King-Smith), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (CS Lewis), and The Abominables (Eva Ibbotson).
By Year 4 students can expand their reading collection to books with elements of fantasy such as The Snow-Walker’s Son (Catherine Fisher) and The Firework Maker’s Daughter (Philip Pullman), as well as challenging reads such as Charlotte’s Web (Eb White).
Year 5 and 6 students are encouraged to read classics and more “intense reads” as wide ranging as The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken), Street Child (Berlie Doherty), Holes (Louis Sachar), Fireweed (Jill Paton Walsh), and Skellig (David Almond).
As well as the books on Corbett’s list, Flint recommends titles in the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway book awards. She also directs students and parents to websites including Lovereading4kids, the Blue Peter Awards, and Goodreads.com, which “are all wonderful for creating book chatting arenas”.
Michael Hirsch, the secondary school principal at KIS International School, is one of many school leaders in Thailand to encourage his senior students to read over the summer.
“One of the most important things that your child can do to support their academic and intellectual development is to develop an active habit of pleasure reading. Pleasure reading supports students in developing vocabulary, improving reading speed and comprehension, and perhaps most importantly supports students in becoming lifelong learners.”
Hirsch also stresses that reading is the secret to obtaining good grades.
“In each exam, students have only about a minute for each mark or question – not only is it important to be able to understand what you read, but it is important to be able to do so quickly. A student's ability to read is probably the factor that is most correlated with both their academic success in school, and their success on exams like those they take for their IB Diplomas, or exams that they take for college admissions.”
Hirsch recommends the following books, which he says range from the “tried and true that everyone should have read to some of the new classics.”