Monday, August 20, 2012

Back-to-School Reading by Dr. Danny Brassell

Is summer really almost over?
Depending on whether you are a parent or a student, you are probably experiencing moments of elation or deflation. So now we have to transition our children from “vacation mode” to “school mode.” How do we get our children back into the swing of school?
Well, if you’re reading this, you’re most likely the kind of parent who continued to read to your children during summer vacation. You probably took your kids to the library a couple of times a week. I am guessing you traveled with your children, either far from home to exotic locales or on nearby excursions to parks, museums and whatever soothing bodies of water you could find. Perhaps you even attended an author talk at your local bookstore.
You don’t need any tips. You’re doing a great job.
Now, plenty of parents did not continue good reading habits during the summer vacation. I am not judging them, as I have lost and gained about 100 pounds this summer (it’s tough to stick with healthy habits). All of us can become negligent, and that is why it is even more important that we get back on track.
So what are some back-to-school reading tips you can use with children?

Shop with your kids. Remember when you were a kid? I know that is a long time ago for some of us! When I was a kid (way back in the last century), I could not wait to buy brand new school supplies. From Trapper Keepers to the coveted box of “64” Crayola crayons, new school gear always dazzled me. I know shopping with kids can be a hassle (remember, I have three children), but one of the greatest excursions you can take with your children is on a trip to the store in search of school supplies. Now is a prefect time, as vendors want your business (thus, there are school sales galore in August). Give your children the joy of helping you pick out school supplies together, and then why not take a trip to a bookstore (heck, if you don’t have that much money, you can go to a Dollar Tree or a 99 Cent Store) to finish the day with a brand new book you can start reading together? Get in the habit of giving books to your children as gifts.
Have a “Party Night.” When I was a kid, my dad used to get paid on Fridays, so my mom would take my brother, sister and me to the grocery store to select treats for “party night.” Then, we spent the evening together playing board games, having sock fights and telling ghost stories. Those are some of my most treasured family memories from my childhood. The start of the new school year is an excellent opportunity to start a new weekly or monthly event where your family reads together, tells stories together and plays games together. As a parent, you have a great “home-field advantage,” as your children will tend to emulate what you do.

Get out the stability balls. I watched an after-school program that improved students’ reading attentiveness and fitness at the same time. They used stability balls – those exercise balls that people use to perform abdominal and back exercises to increase flexibility – to encourage students to focus better as they read. Tutors and counselors noticed that the students enjoyed balancing themselves on the balls as they read, and the activity boosted their interest in reading as well as exercise. What a fun way to combine mental and physical activity while spending quality time with your little ones!
Create a reading timeline. Figure out a fun way to keep track of what your children read. For example, you can buy a bead kit at a handicraft store, give each of your children plastic necklaces and add beads for every book they read. Or you could chart which books your children read throughout the Fall. One of my favorite things to do with my own children is to keep track of our favorite books at different ages (e.g., when I was in preschool, my favorite book was Goodnight Moon, but now that I am a kindergartner, I prefer Where the Wild Things Are).
Go to the movies. I have never understood people who fear movies based on books. So many people fear that children will lose interest in books when they go to the movie versions, when – in my experience – the opposite is true. Read stories with your kids and then show them movie versions of the stories. Most of my students tend to comment that while they enjoy the movies, they find the books to be much better. This realization is a major step in attracting children to the wonders of books.

When parents and educators attend my seminars, they constantly fear that they are not doing enough to help their children. In fact, just by attending my seminars, I can predict with a high degree of certainty that they are already doing a good job (the folks that need extra help tend to avoid seminars). Another misconception many parents have is that it takes a lot to tempt children’s interest in reading. By reading in front of your children, aloud to your children and with your children, and by providing your children exhilarating reading resources, you can boost your children’s reading attitudes and aptitudes. If you really want to help your children get excited about reading for the next school year, remember this: reading should always be fun. The more fun you make it for children, the more likely they will be to seek to do it on their own.

Danny Brassell, Ph.D., is “America’s Leading Reading Ambassador,” helping parents and educators inspire kids to love reading and achieve more. A father of three and professor in the Teacher Education Department at California State University-Dominguez Hills, he is the founder of The Lazy Readers’ Book Club,, Google’s #1-ranked site for cool, “short book recommendations” for all ages. Watch video tips and learn more from Danny at


  1. Love reading about your "Party Nights". Though we didn't have that exactly, my Mom (widowed 2 months before I was born) would create celebrations for us that cost nothing, but created memories. I particularly remember "Ice Cream for Dinner" - she'd make a positive of our situation, "we don't have to be home at 5:00 every night to put dinner on the table", and declare banana splits to be the main course! Maybe only twice a year - but I remember it!
    Thanks for the very DO-able suggestions in your blog!

    1. Thank YOU, Carole, for sharing your experiences. I really appreciate it! ;-)

  2. Great ideas, Danny! I LOVE stability balls ... and sit on one each day for my blogging! I pinned your post to my Back to School Board at


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