Free reading – a summer holiday pleasure!

School’s out for summer! For children of all ages, that means a very welcome rest from homework and academia. It also allows for many a break from being told exactly what to read and when. True. Personally, as an avid reader, summer holidays always allowed me the freedom to choose exactly what I wanted to read and when, whether curled up on a sun lounger or tucked away in a cool corner. Summer equals hours of reading for pleasure, unlocking the magic of books.

For some children and families, reading during the summer may not be a priority. However, it should be. Developing a love of reading for pleasure is very important, as is helping your child retain the knowledge that they have developed throughout their last school year. Summer reading enables children of all ages to develop their knowledge and critical thinking skills autonomously.

As educationalists and long-term research have discovered, encouraging all children to read regularly during the long summer break helps to prevent the so-called summer slide that many refer to – when children during the long vacation do not make the developmental progress that they do during term time.

What to encourage your child to read and where to obtain books can also be problematic. In Portugal, there are numerous book shops, including English and foreign language book shops. Covid-19 rules and regulations dependant, there are also numerous local libraries to borrow books from. For reading inspiration, look at the Book Trusts – 100 Best Children’s Books, Time magazines – 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time and The Guardian – Best Children’s Books Ever. All have excellent recommendations for early years through to late teens.

When your child is choosing a book, it is important that their ability to choose freely is not hindered by the selection of a book at completely the wrong reading level. A book that a child can read independently is a pleasure and will develop a life-long love of reading. However, if a child struggles with every word, there will be no sense of achievement and the child will not enjoy reading.

A simple tip is to look at the first page of a new book together. If your child can read the page with less than five words that they have difficulty decoding, then the book should be more than suitable, and a rewarding experience to read. Summer reading should not be so easy that it is boring, nor should it be so difficult that it feels like hard work and becomes a frustrating experience.

Allowing children to select books that they are interested in is also very important. It is a chance to move away from a prescribed reading programme and to learn all about something that they are interested in. Many children enjoy reading freely from a range of genres, with biographies being very popular, especially those related to sporting stars. Equally, non-fiction can be fascinating for children, especially when they are interested in specific subjects.

Of course, reading is not all about picture books or novels. Reading magazines, graphic novels, and even the Algarve Resident are all examples of solid reading matter, as are travel blogs, recipe books and the daily newspaper!

Be it online or physical books, reading should be one of life’s greatest pleasures. As adults and role models throughout this summer, we need to express our own love of reading, taking time to indulge in a good book, showing our children a fascinating article or making time to read a favourite story together!

“Show me a family of readers and I will show you the people who move the world”
– Napoleon Bonaparte

By Penelope Best, Head of School,
Eupheus International School, Loulé