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The best summer reading tip: have kids pick out their own books
New research suggests that when children pick out their own summer reading books, they test better in the following fall term. - photo by Herb Scribner
Heres a pro tip for teachers and parents who want their students to read over the summer break: Let children choose their own books.

That tip comes from a 2013 study done by researchers at the University of Rochester in New York that found students who chose their own summer reading books at the end of the spring term achieved better reading scores when they returned to school in the fall.

The most popular book was an adaptation of Disneys Frozen, said Dr. Erin Kelly, the studys lead author. Is that going to be the best literature in the world? No. But if its something that the children will actually read, then its going to lead to positive outcomes.

To find this, researchers held a book fair for second-graders. One group of students was allowed to pick free books to read over the summer, while another group received specific books to read. The first group had significantly higher reading scores in the following fall term, while the group that didnt get to choose their books didnt see any change in their test scores.

The researchers then expanded the study to include students in kindergarten through second grade, where multiple groups were allowed to pick their own books. All the students test scores improved.

This fits in with a 2014 study out of the United Kingdom that found children who read for fun tend to have higher intelligence levels. The study said leisure reading made children more intelligent in vocabulary, spelling and mathematics, according to Dr. Alice Sullivan, one of the studys researchers.

Reading clearly introduces young people to new words, so the link between reading for pleasure and vocabulary development is expected, Sullivan wrote for The Guardian. But the link between reading for fun and progress in maths may be more surprising. I would suggest that reading also introduces young people to new ideas. Along with teaching them new vocabulary, it helps them understand and absorb new information and concepts at school. Independent reading may also promote a more self-sufficient approach to learning in general."

Of course, not all children are gung-ho to open a book, whether its for school or pleasure. But motivating a child to read is an easy process, according to New York Times best-selling author James Patterson, who wrote for CNN in 2011 that parents can introduce easy-to-read books to their children to get them interested in reading initially. Over time, this will inspire children to read on their own.

The best way to get kids reading more is to give them books that they'll gobble up and that will make them ask for another, Patterson wrote. Kids say the No. 1 reason they don't read more is that they can't find books they like. Freedom of choice is a key to getting them motivated and excited. Vampire sagas, comics, manga, books of sports statistics terrific! as long as kids are reading.

The Atlantics Daniel Willingham said something similar in 2014. He suggested that parents should aim to promote a culture in their home where reading no matter how difficult or whether its for leisure or school is accepted. This will inspire children to read more, which will make them smarter over time.

The important part, though, is making sure a child knows the value of reading so that the child will continue to do it, Willingham wrote.

"Reading improves your vocabulary, makes you a better writer and enlarges your breadth of understanding, Willingham wrote for The Atlantic. Its too much to hope that kids will take that long view, but parents can make some small adjustments to their homes that might make reading seem a good choice in the moment."
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