Getting your kids to read anytime, anywhere

Posted at 10:09 AM, May 18, 2016

Summer vacation spells many glorious things for students: A break from the classroom structure, fun-filled road trips with their friends and families, and, thanks to the technology of e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle, the freedom to explore and expand their imaginations with thousands of books at their fingertips.

With technology to read anytime and anywhere — whether it’s poolside or next to a campfire — on-the-go kids, regardless of their age, can reinforce and build upon the good habits they learned in the classroom.

According to researchers, the summer slide may mean water, garden hoses and slippery plastic sheets to children, but teachers associate the “summer slide” with a noticeable decrease in reading skills after a vacation without books. 

As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in his best-selling book Outliers, “America doesn’t have a school problem, it has a summer vacation problem.” Research shows kids who don’t read four or more age-appropriate books over the summer are more likely to fall victim to the “summer slide,” the common loss of skills due to being out of school over the summer. 

A three-year study by University of Tennessee, Knoxville, faculty members Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen showed a tremendously higher level of reading achievement in students who had access to books for summer reading at home.

“Just like hockey players lose some of their skills if they stay off their skates and off the ice for three months, children who do not read in the summer lose two to three months of reading development,” Allington said.

According to the professors’ research, the summer reading setback is the primary reason for the reading achievement gap between children who have access to reading materials at home and those who do not. Those missed opportunities can really add up.

“What we know is that children who do not read in the summer lose two to three months of reading development while kids who do read tend to gain a month of reading proficiency,” Allington said. “This creates a three to four month gap every year. Every two or three years the kids who don’t read in the summer fall a year behind the kids who do.”

The good news: The study found that summer reading, is just as effective, if not more so, as summer school. McGill-Franzen and Allington compared their outcomes with studies on the impacts and costs of summer school attendance and found at-home summer reading had an effect equal or even greater.



One way parents can encourage kids to read all summer long is with a single-purpose Kindle e-reader. There are zero distractions for kids — no video, games or music — and digital reading is perfect for young readers eager to take books with them wherever they go.

A Kindle e-reader is lighter than a paperback and can hold thousands of books, making it ideal for car rides to visit grandparents, lengthy flights when kids often become restless and bored, or even just backyard reading (the matte display means no glare in bright sunlight). Built-in Wi-Fi means the next book in a series is never far away.

Unlike tablets, Kindle e-readers are designed just for reading, which means a child can immerse himself in a good book rather than get distracted by videos or games.

Another plus: A single battery charge lasts weeks, not hours, so there’s one less thing for kids to have to remember.

Struggling readers will appreciate the privacy a Kindle offers as they work to hone their skills during summer break. Similar to adult readers who don’t want others to see the romance novel they’re reading on the bus, kids who are struggling with their reading appreciate that their peers can’t see the book they’re reading — especially if it’s recommended for a lower grade level.

And with a Kindle, kids can increase the text size to a level that matches their reading ability and comfort level.

At the same time, parents appreciate the tools that support comprehension and vocabulary development. Most e-books — such as those found in the Kindle Store at — have features that help with a child’s comprehension of the material and learning of new words/definitions. 

Words looked up on Kindle are automatically added to Vocabulary Builder and turned into flashcards for future review and learning. With Word Wise, short and simple definitions automatically appear above difficult words so kids can keep reading with fewer interruptions.

Kindle FreeTime lets parents create personalized profiles for their kids, giving them access to select titles from their collection of books.  A progress report keeps parents updated on their child’s reading habits.  Kids can even earn achievement badges for reaching milestones.

To learn more about Kindle FreeTime, check out their site to sign up for a one month free trial.