Harrison's been suspiciously quiet. Slinking up the stairs you inch open his bedroom door and get the shock of your life. Stretched out flat on his bed, Harrison, the biggest book hater in the whole first grade, balances a book on his belly and chuckles.
Teacher Says: Stoke that chuckle. Surround kids with interesting books all summer long. All kids, especially new readers, need to keep books in their faces over the summer or they'll lose many of the precious skills they gained during the school year.
"Summer can be a time of great strides or great loss in learning," says veteran high school English teacher Richard E. Bavaria, vice president for education at Sylvan Learning Center. "We don't want students to put their minds on hold over the summer," he says. Kids should come back to school "enlightened, energized and ready for learning."
And reading is the way. "Reading is a good family glue that costs no money and has enormous social and intellectual benefit," Bavaria says.
Engage reluctant readers like Harrison by "knowing your child," says Bavaria. "Get to know what they like, what their interests are." Then make books, cassettes and CDs available, piling them in obvious places throughout the house, even the car. "No minivan should be without a basket of books and audio tapes," Bavaria says. "Update them frequently," he adds.
Read to them, even the older ones. "I did it every day with my high school students and they loved it," says Bavaria. Or have Harrison read aloud to the family. Kids love showing off their reading skill.
Read plays together. Make it a family production by assigning everyone parts to read.
Take book-based family trips. "Lots of kids like reading about history so visit the setting of the book. If they read about the Civil War, go to a battlefield on a family trip," he says. Make foods together that book characters eat, like the chocolate cake with the secret ingredient in author Patricia Polacco's "Thunder Cake" (Putnam, $5.95, grades K-3).
The following list will help get kids off to a book-filled summer. Contributions were made by Ashley Lore, sixth-grader at Bethesda's Thomas W. Pyle Middle School, John Culver, fourth-grader at Washington's Maret School, and Jane Rothrock's fourth-grade class at Belmont Hills Elementary School in Bala-Cynwyd, Pa. Book notes and opinions are in the kids' own words. Richard Bavaria recommends books for high school.
"Amber Brown Wants Extra Credit," by Paula Danziger (Putnam, $14.99). Amber is very mad at her mother, who has a boyfriend. Amber's parents are divorced and she doesn't want another father.
"Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire," by Gordon Korman (Little Apple, $3.99). About a girl who makes up a lot of lies about her friends.
"The Mr. Men Books," by Roger Hargreaves (Price Stern Sloan, $2.50). Every book has an adventure about little men and teaches you a good lesson.
"Snow Treasure," by Marie McSwigan (Scholastic, $3.99). Young children smuggle gold past the Nazis on sleds. Based on a true story.
"The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles," by Julie Edwards (Harper Trophy, $4.95). A professor takes three kids to Whangdoodle Land using their imagination. Very mysterious and adventurous.
"The Shiloh Trilogy: Shiloh, Shiloh Season, Saving Shiloh," by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Simon & Schuster, $35). Three books about a poor boy named Marty who finds a beagle named Shiloh who belongs to the evil Judd Travers.
"Wayside School Is Falling Down," by Louis Sachar (Camelot, $4.99). A really funny book about a silly school. The ending is funny, too.
"The Giver," by Lois Lowry (Laurel Leaf, $4.50). Written really well. Something new happens in every chapter. This is the book to read if you don't like to read.
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," by J.K. Rowling (Scholastic, $17.95). A most exciting book, with adventures in every chapter.
"I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, A Freed Girl," by Joyce Hansen (Scholastic Dear America Series, $10.95). It's the diary of Patsy, who was a slave. She wants to be free.
"Journey Home," by Yoshiko Uchida (Aladdin, $4.95). A girl comes back home after being in a concentration camp in World War II. She is Japanese.
High School Books
Bavaria believes that all high school students should read the following two books. "They have as much relevance now as when they were written. Kids still identify deeply with the choices the characters make," says Bavaria.
"To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee. (Warner Books, $5.99). The classic story about race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s.
"Catcher in the Rye," by J. D. Salinger (Little Brown, $5.99). A couple of days in the life of 16-year-old Holden Caulfield.
Bavaria advises reading plays together with older kids and suggests "A Raisin in the Sun" by Lorraine Hansberry and Robert Nemiroff (Vintage, $5.50). Classic story of poverty, love and pride in an African American family in Chicago.
Books to Read Aloud
"Haroun and the Sea Stories," by Salman Rushdie (Penguin, $12.95). Funny and very nifty series of stories.
"The Great Hunt," by Robert Jordan (Tor Books, $7.99). A great adventure story.
"Tiger Woods: The Making of a Champion," by John Garrity (Fireside, $10.95). The author used great words and it was detailed.
Perfection Learning Corporation book catalogues for grades pre-K-8 and 6-12. Free at 800-831-4190.
Recorded Books Inc. 2,000 tapes to rent or buy. All ages. Free catalogue: 800-638-1304.
www.bookadventure.org, free-online reading program. Kids K-8 create personalized book lists from more than 3,000 recommended titles, then take quizzes and earn prizes.
Contact Evelyn Vuko online at firstname.lastname@example.org or write her at Style Plus, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071.