Summer reading is a little like eating broccoli. Kids who like it need no convincing, but those who don’t? Getting them to change their minds is an uphill battle. Every parent wants their children to stay sharp over the summer months, but no one wants to transform themselves into the family villain in the process. So what’s a caring parent to do? Use one of these five ideas to rethink reading and make summer learning fun.

  1. Start a Summer Book Club. If there’s one thing kids love, it’s clubs. Help your son or daughter start a weekly reading club and watch as their interest grows. Create custom t-shirts and pins for members and write out invitations for friends to join the club. Then host weekly meetings at your house. Your kids will get excited about summer reading — and they’ll get their friends excited about it too!
  2. Create a Scavenger Hunt. This is a great idea for rainy summer days. Turn your kids into junior sleuths by designing your own scavenger hunt. Write out clues on paper and have your detectives follow them throughout the house to discover a hidden prize. They’ll have so much fun solving the mystery, they won’t even realize they’re relying on reading skills to do it.
  3. Turn to the Tablet. If you’ve recently bought an iPad, Kindle or other tablet, it probably spends a lot of time in your kids’ hands. Turn the situation to your advantage this summer and download ebooks for your children to read. Even the most reluctant readers will have trouble putting down interactive ebooks like Alice for the iPad, which immerses children in rich illustrations, fun animations and other interactive features.
  4. Buy a How-To Book. Has your daughter always loved magic tricks? Does your son dive into any science project he can get his hands on? These interests aren’t just creative learning opportunities — they’re summer reading opportunities as well. Take your child to a local craft or toy store and let them pick out a how-to book that matches their interests. Many of these books come with complete kits, so your kids will have all the supplies they need to get started — and an incentive to do some out-of-school reading.
  5. Get on Board. If your child has a Wii, Xbox, iPad or other device, convincing them to give board games a go may not be easy, but these tools are a great way to sneak in some summer learning on rainy days. Try playing Scrabble or Boggle to build vocabulary or choose games like Apples to Apples Junior which rely on a little reading too. If they refuse to play with low-tech gear, opt for apps like Words With Friends that give the same principles a modern spin.

Let’s be honest — sometimes when you’re a parent, you need to be a little deceptive. That means doing things like sneaking broccoli into recipes so veggie-hating kids stay healthy. It also means finding creative ways to make learning fun — especially when it comes to summer reading. So this year, discover ways to make reading feel like a reward instead of a punishment.

Looking for a way to start off on the right foot? If you’re in Pittsburgh, you can attend the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s 12th Annual Summer Reading Extravaganza on June 10th in Oakland. With live performances, hands-on activities and visits from Radio Disney and the Pittsburgh Pirates, your kids will have an easy time getting excited about reading.

And don’t miss out on the Allegheny County Library Association’s Summer Reading Program. ACLA is taking a new approach to the traditional summer reading club that uses contests, events, and online engagement to keep kids interested in reading all summer long.

Have some fun summer reading tips that we didn’t cover? Share them on our Facebook wall or by tweeting them to @Sparkpgh.