We are so excited to have our good friend, Kristin Wynalda, sharing some summer reading tips for families today! Kristin is no stranger to our podcast and blog. She has written an article for us titled 9 Best Picture Books to Share the Gospel with Your Little Ones and was a guest on Episode 54: How to Find the Best Books for Your Kids and Make the Most of Reading Together.
She’s super smart, fun, and is the best resource we’ve seen on the topic of reading with kids!
Let’s get to it:
Summer is here and it is the perfect time to stock up on sunscreen, bug spray, and BOOKS!! This is a great opportunity to start reading as a family. Not only can reading help fend off the “summer slump,” but it is also the perfect way to build connections as a family.
Before you head to the nearest library, bookstore, or go over to Amazon, be sure to check out these tips for starting a reading habit with your family this summer:
1. Pick books you wouldn’t normally read.
The school year is so busy! Reading aloud as a family can get pushed to the back burner during this time. But summer is the perfect time to pick up a reading habit as a family! So, grab a book that the kids WON’T get to read at school.
Many families like to pick a faith market chapter book. For example, a very gentle Christian series that is meant for reading aloud is The Adventures of Geraldine Woolkins series by Karin Kaufman. The content is family-friendly, and I recommend it as a read-aloud series for ages preschool and up. Just be sure to take the time to stop and explain what is happening when the dad mouse starts telling a story-in-a-story. In the story, the mice refer to God as “Very Very Big Hands.” I think that can be confusing for little children, so when reading aloud I would recommend replacing it with “God.”
Don’t forget to encourage your older kids to check out faith market books that they might not get a chance to read during the school year. For example, point your high schooler toward clean Young Adult books from Christian publishers. I have a whole list of recommendations in this category here.
2. Utilize audiobooks when you can.
Audiobooks aren’t just for road trips! With a little advanced planning (and downloading), they’re the perfect alternative to screens when the kids are losing their minds and you need a break. When my husband travels for work, I will frequently light a candle and play an audiobook while we eat dinner.
My favorite audiobook that the whole family will like is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and read by Rainn Wilson. It’s a silly story that on one hand makes exactly no sense, but on the other hand is quite profound.
It is a general market story (versus faith market) but is completely clean and the whole family will enjoy it. There are lots of opportunities to pause the book and talk about the wordplay and universal truths presented. You may even have to pause when a grownup is laughing too hard at a pun that the kids didn’t get!
3. Don’t be afraid to incentivize reading.
It is alright to give your children rewards for reading! You can even sign independent readers up for programs at your local library or online to win prizes. You can also incentivize reading a chapter book as a family by planning a book-themed celebration once you get through the book.
I have found that adventure books with lots of elements of tangible obstacles make especially fun-themed parties! We’re planning a themed party this summer with some friends after we read Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen Taylor and illustrated by Joe Sutphin. I highly recommend it for all families and you will love the illustrations of all the woodland creatures! Our party is going to include decorating cardboard shields, conquering a “Bog of Despair” obstacle course, and enjoying a grand feast!
If you have older kids who may have outgrown Little Pilgrim’s Progress, I recommend The Wilderking Trilogy by Jonathan Rogers. It is a creative retelling of the story of young King David but set in a swamp. It’s fabulous and would definitely lend itself to a party with lots of fun activities! (How do you feel about archery in the house? 🙂) I have fully reviewed The Wilderking Trilogy and compiled a list of clean titles that would appeal to adventure-loving kids that you can check out here for more ideas.
4. Look for opportunities to talk about what you are reading.
It can be overwhelming to think about how to make the most of the books that your kids are reading or listening to this summer. Don’t despair! Rich conversation can come from asking the most basic questions such as:
“What did you like in the chapter?”
“What made you sad in this story?”
“How did you see Jesus in this story?”
That last one is especially important. As you ask your kids questions, make sure that you are prepared to answer them too. This will help guide how they’re thinking about the story and make sure it lines up with your family’s values.
A fun book for your family to read together that is easy to ask these questions is Rump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Rumpelstiltskin by Leisl Shurtliff. There’s courage, friendship, and humor. It’s a wonderful book to have a conversation with your kids about. It would also be appropriate for third through sixth graders to read independently.
I hope these tips help you and your family find new opportunities and ways to enjoy new books in the summer sun!
Kristin Wynalda knows what it feels like to be overwhelmed when trying to pass on your faith to your kids because she has been there! She found reading aloud to be the best way to connect with her children and teach them about Jesus. At Big Books, Little Ears, Kristin equips moms to use books with their kids. There you will find picky book reviews, curated book lists, and no-prep book activities for young kids! Connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.