COLUMN: School’s out but the need to read continues

Tommy Fairweather, Teachable Moments

Just as ice cream cones and the beach are signs of summer, so is the increased time available for children to read. 

Many children think summer is not for reading. But a parent’s job is to teach children that reading is an enjoyable and valuable pastime that can take place whenever time permits.  The most important initial step of the parent (and teacher) is to find the “just right” book for the child — one that will hook him or her on reading. 

I did not learn how to read until late in my childhood and really did not like reading even then.  But, there was book  that changed my reading life.  I was a young Army officer’s wife with little or no extra money so I regularly used the library.  While I was strolling down the fiction aisle, I came across “The Good Earth” by Pearl Buck.  At first, I didn’t want to check it out because it was thick.  But, I had heard of it and the setting was old China.  As I read the story, Buck’s characters came alive in my head.  Her description of settings made me want to teleport myself immediately into the story as an observer. 

She created a movie in my head that has lasted a lifetime.  Once I finished that book, I wanted more, and more.

Parents need to help young readers find such books. For young children, I recommend finding the best picture books that you can.  A good place to start is to review Caldecott Award winning books.  For a complete list, check out: Also, the National Council of Teachers of English has an award site of picture books:  My favorite books on this site are: “The Secret World of Walter Anderson” by Hester Bass, and “The Friar Who Grew Peas.”  

For older children, I feel that Newbery Award winning books are great.  One of my favorites is “The Whipping Boy” by Sid Fleischman.  This book has humor and similes that most children love.  It is a great read aloud book, too.  For humor books check this site:  Several winners are historical novels.  “Fever 1793” ( $.99 Kindle) by Laurie Anderson is about the yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia.  “Number of the Stars” by  Lois Lowery is enjoyed by boys and girls.  Most boys, grades 4-5, also love “The Cay” by  Theodore Taylor.

For children interested in specific topics there are lists available online.  Just type in “Children’s award winning (topic) books” in Google. History books can be found at this site: Science books can be found at this site:

Parents can check the reading level of most books at the following site by typing in the title and checking the author when the book pops up at

To increase comprehension while reading have your child put a few bullets of what happened in the chapter on Post-it notes.  Have them write a summary when finished reading the book.  This method will help them review the books read during the school year before taking the Accelerated Reader tests that many schools use. In preparation, you can ask younger children to retell what they have read.

 Many of these books are available at your local library or local bookstores.  You can order them at the store or online. I must again emphasize how important it is for your child, pre-K through 12th grade, to read during the summer.

Younger children need to be read to in order to develop their fluency. Some young children lose three to six months of instruction from the previous year if they don’t continue reading over the summer. Older children need to increase their vocabulary. By reading, they can develop the large vocabulary necessary to win scholarships to college. During the summer, it is the parent’s responsibility to guide their child through an effective reading program.  Teachers can tell at the beginning of the year which parents have lived up to this responsibility.  Remember, it takes teachers and parents working as a team to help the child learn to be an effective reader.

Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher, who lives in Destin.