School hasn’t wound down yet, despite the trees leafing out, the park’s hillside garden coming into its own and many students braving shorts and short sleeves.

But in this first of an occasional series on reading, I want to look ahead to summer and the importance of summer reading and reading aloud.

First, recent research supports the importance of continuing to read aloud to our youngsters into their middle school years. Here’s a link to an article that gives a clear rationale for this:

Consider planning for time to read to your child. There may be a book he or she wants to read, but can’t yet read independently. Read some of it every other day or so, talking informally about it as you go.

Second, remember to keep summer reading positive. Develop a routine, but also be flexible.

Please don’t hold reading time over your child’s head or make him or her dread it.

Books chosen for summer reading should primarily be enjoyable and not too hard.

Celebrate the completion of each book, and keep a list of them posted for all to admire.

Try to connect book choices to your child’s interests. If he or she becomes more of a reader because they started by reading every Phineas and Ferb book ever published, I promise that one day your child will pick up a more traditional book by choice.

If you go “off the mountain,” bookstores have shelves of graphic novels in a wide range of reading levels. Set your child free here with a little spending money.

I only recently told my grandson that I tricked him into becoming a reader. I bought a bunch of tantalizing books at book fairs and secondhand stores, and left them on his family’s coffee table, and I never mentioned them.

A reader was born.

Yes, I bought some “Big Nates,” some “Wimpy Kids” and some sports books. He didn’t read every single title, but he does have these big mitts for hands, and a particular and almost authoritative way of turning pages that I just love. “Thwap. Thwap.”

Sometimes he’d read a few pages to me that he found funny. He just assumed I found them equally funny.

Carol Critcher, our Blowing Rock School media center director, will soon send home forms for the ASU Mountaineer Summer Reading Program.

Most incentive programs allow children to double-count minutes read, meaning your child can record the titles read on the ASU form and also on the public library’s form. These sponsors all just want children to read.

Other incentive programs can be found online.

Along with the ASU Mountaineer form that comes home, you’ll find a flier with links to several free e-book sites for your child.

More tips for encouraging a reader:

• Find other books by the same author, or on the same topic, as one your child already likes.

• For young beginning readers, you can “echo read” for a stretch: You read a page, your child reads the same page. Or you can take turns reading pages. Keep the session short and easy for a young beginner, so that she can have a good experience every time. Supply the occasional word she doesn’t know.

• Talk about what he or she is reading. Be there and take an interest.

• Keep an eye out for frustration; if he or she makes more than a couple of errors per page, the book may be too difficult for pleasure reading.

• Consider that “no book is too easy.” Let your child loll in books and reread favorites.

• Don’t insist that every book must be completed; he or she will find that some books are too dull or too difficult. During summer vacation, let your child decide what they want to read.

• “Book Wizard” is a Scholastic website where you can type in a book title and find its reading level, and it’s free.

• If your child attends Blowing Rock School, consider joining our PTO’s Facebook page. We post book suggestions and tips for reading with your child at home.

• This last idea is my favorite. Make “reading dates.” Take your book and have your youngster bring his or her book to a special bench at the park or to a coffee shop. Each of you read to yourselves for about 10 minutes. By the end of the summer, maybe 10 minutes will become 20.

Hopefully these and ideas you dream up (or, you’ve found that work) will carry over into pleasurable summer reading.

It’s important to keep up the reading habit, and one way to develop a lifelong reader is to give them a lot of choice as to what they read.

Summer’s perfect for this. And reading to your child will help develop a bond with books and further grow your child’s vocabulary and background knowledge. I call this “money in the bank” for further learning.

Laurie Gill, Ed.D., Blowing Rock School’s reading teacher, has studied how children learn to read for many years. Her particular focus is why some struggle and on ways to identify and prevent reading difficulties where they develop. She has taught at both elementary and college levels.

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