“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”   -Dr. Seuss in I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!

School’s out and summer is upon us. Parents everywhere are trying to figure out what to do with their kids. One universal problem, documented in countless studies of young children over the past thirty-five years, is called summer learning loss.

This loss in learning varies across grade level, subject matter and family income. In general, kids from low-income families lose the equivalent of two months of reading proficiency whereas kids from middle class families experience slight gains. Why this difference and how can it be changed? The answer is simple: get kids to read, especially in the summer. But how?

One of the most important ways to get kids to read is to read aloud to them starting when they are toddlers.  In a recent study, researchers found that children from both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking low-income families, had better language comprehension and cognitive development if their mothers began reading to them at an early age. The study, published in the journal, Child Development, looked at the effects of parents reading to young children in more than 2,500 families enrolled in the Early Head Start program. Only half the mothers in the study said they read to their children daily. Make reading a daily ritual.

Reading doesn’t have to be costly. That’s why libraries are so important. Start taking your kids to the library when they are little, and let them help you pick out books that appeal to them. Make library day a special outing, and look for special events for young kids. Many libraries have summer reading programs that reward kids for reading a certain number of books and then sharing about what they have read.

When kids are asked why they don’t read more, they say it’s because they can’t find books they like. The best way to get them reading is to find books that they gobble up. Never mind that the books are about sports heroes, or bugs or ghosts and vampires. Freedom of choice is the ticket to getting them motivated and excited. Reading a comic book still counts as reading. Since some kids can be tougher to tantalize, here are some great websites to give you ideas: GuysRead.com, ReadKiddoRead.com, or Oprah’s KidsReadingList.

Who has the time? Might ask all the working moms and dads out there. Think of all of the time you spend in the car driving kids from one activity to another. Listen to books on tape when you are in the car. Take turns picking out the book that the whole family listens to together.

Given the boost in technology, many kids will prefer to read via the computer or to download e-books to a reading tablet. There was a flurry of concern that the introduction of the e-book would somehow spell the end of reading. The good news from a recent survey by Pew Research Center shows quite the opposite. Researchers found that forty-one percent of tablet owners and thirty-five percent of e-reading device owners said they are reading more, and not just on e-books. They read more books (in print) too. The new technology opened the floodgates to knowledge and enjoyment.

There was also tremendous concern that public libraries would be closed due to funding shortages. Although some libraries have been forced to cut back their hours, collections overall continue to grow because of increases in the number of audio, video, and electronic book materials. Many parents are not aware that books that can be downloaded for free, via their public library, to MP-3’s or I-Pods.

Kids love how books turn into movies. Make a practice of reading the book first and then go see the movie together as a family. Talk about how the book and the movie were different and what parts you each liked better. As you are reading the book, imagine out loud together how the movie might portray a certain scene or character.

Play board games that require reading such as Trivial Pursuit, and if a question or category interests your child, look up more information in books or on the computer. Talk to your kids about why reading is so important. As Dr. Seuss so aptly reminds us, the more we read, the more we know. Reading unlocks the doors to the mysteries of the universe.

Last, but certainly not least…Since we all know that kids are more likely to do what we do rather than what we tell them, find times that you can read too! While you are reading the newspaper or a magazine (it’s not only about books), have your kids read to themselves. Even fifteen minutes a day will make a huge difference.

Unfortunately, there are still twenty percent of adults out there who say they haven’t read a book in the last year. If you are a parent, please don’t be one of them.

Child reading a book photo available from Shutterstock.