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Introducing Ask Amy | A BLOG for Inspiration & Information

"If you would like to discuss all things concerning parenting and academics, please send me an email with a question or comment by clicking on the Ask Amy button below."

Amy Reed-Ferguson is an Early Childhood Educator and

PBS KIDS Early Learning Champion 2021.

As an unschooling mom of two grown children and a life-long learner, Amy has many interests (from sewing to Permaculture), life experiences, and a strong desire to facilitate exploration and learning. She has a deeply held belief that people learn when they are intrigued, are with others who are passionate, and are able to have the freedom and time to “peel” through the layers of a subject. As a PBS KIDS Early Learning Champion, Amy partners with PBS KIDS and KBTC Public Television to help support families in their educational journeys because parents are a child's first teacher, and they should feel empowered to engage in their children’s life-long learning.



Your child can read! Yay! But…your child doesn’t want to read. Boo! Helping reluctant readers embrace the joy of settling into a good book can sometimes feel like a monumental task. If you are reading this because you want your child to develop a rich inner life that reading books can help develop, odds are good that you yourself are an avid reader and it baffles you as to why your child doesn’t want to read.

Let’s see if we can offer some ideas for you to try.

Reading is a great way to learn about the world and explore different perspectives. There are a variety of ways to get children to delight in reading, but the most important thing is that they find reading enjoyable.


There are many benefits of reading that go beyond just having fun. Reading can help with cognitive development, language acquisition, and literacy skills. It can also help improve memory and concentration. Reading encourages critical thinking skills, as well as creativity.




The best way to encourage children to read is by providing them with plenty of opportunities for reading in a variety of contexts

Such as:

  • at home

  • at school

  • on the go

  • giving them access to a wide range of books (print and audio)

  • modeling good reading behavior

  • encouraging them to read aloud or listen when others are doing so

  • allowing them time for leisure activities such as looking at books with few or no words because for some children, the pressure to “read” can override the pleasure of looking at pictures and interacting with books.


Reading is a skill that is often taken for granted. For years it has been the foundation of education and learning. Some might argue, in order to learn, one must read. However, in this modern world, video is king, and one might now argue that a child could learn without ever touching a book or reading a word.


However, we understand that being a reader allows us access to the written word, some of which may not have been created as a visual. There is a very different experience between watching a story and reading a story. Who among us hasn’t lamented that, “The movie wasn’t as good as the book.”?


Reading is an important skill that allows children to learn, grow, and develop into a more creative and knowledgeable people. The ability to read opens a whole new world of information and information for people. Reading helps humans develop their vocabulary, writing skills, and their understanding of the world around them.


For kids who are reluctant readers, there are a few ways that adults can encourage them to start reading more:


Reading can be a difficult and daunting task for some children. It can be too long, too boring, or too complicated. Reading at a level that is too difficult will cause frustration and discourage readers from wanting to read more in the future. It is important to find books that are appropriate for the reader's reading level. Some children may prefer shorter books while others might like more complicated stories.


There are many different genres of books that would appeal to different types of readers such as science fiction, horror, fantasy, biographies, historical fiction, how-to books, and many more! Some children may feel discouraged by their reading level or genre preference so it's important to encourage your child to read any genre they like and allow them the freedom to explore new genres.


So, to recap, reading is a great way to improve vocabulary and grammar, as well as general knowledge. It is also a very enjoyable pastime. If you want to encourage reluctant readers to read more, try one of the following ideas:


  • Help them find a book that interests them.

  • Give them access to books that interest them in any format they prefer (e-books, audiobooks, or hard copies).

  • Create an environment that encourages reading. This could include making time for reading every day or setting up an area with comfortable seating and lots of books.

  • Help them find something they will enjoy reading by suggesting books of certain genres and age groups.

  • Read with them if possible so that you can help guide their reading choices if needed.

If you have tried our recommendations and your child still isn’t interested in reading, give it time. The human brain is a complex machine that develops on its own schedule. Sometimes we just need to let the process happen. Then again, maybe your reluctant reader is a secret mathematician whose brain is quietly working on the mathematical answers to the universe.


Be content in knowing that your child has conquered the hardest step the process of learning to read. And that is a beautiful thing.


When I meet with families at the beginning of the school year, they are quick to tell me that they "didn't do anything educational over the summer". I smile, nod, and then ask them if they did any of these things with their children.


Played cards

Helped cook or bake

Planned a meal

Budgeted with their allowance


Checked the weather

Listened to music

Worked on a jigsaw puzzle

Read together



Wrote emails or letters

Cleaned or did chores

Took a walk in nature

Pretended during play

Made a podcast or Youtube Video



Of the 13 activities on this list, most families will say they did at least 10! Their children were most definitely engaging in education over the summer.


As a society we have been taught that the most important learning is done at a desk, in a classroom, with an educator in charge. Certainly, there are situations where that is absolutely true,

much of what needs to be learned in childhood can happen organically, with one’s community of family and friends.


Why and how are these 13 activities important moments of engaging education?

They allow children to explore concepts like math, literacy, science, engineering and problem-solving in a safe way.


When a child is encouraged to practice skills we hope they will learn in an educational setting at home, there is no pressure to “do it right” and no self-comparison to classmates. This allows the process to be fun and risk-free.


So, planning a meal, cooking, and budgeting can become a vehicle to develop literacy and math skills. Checking the weather and taking a nature walk encourage scientific observations and questioning. Playing board games, building with blocks, working with jigsaw puzzle pieces, and painting help a child develop spatial awareness and problem-solving skills.

All these skills are important for the growth and development of children, and into adulthood.

My families are always concerned that they aren’t doing enough to prepare their children for the “rigors of life”. My job is to help them see that none of us were truly prepared for the rigors of life. The best that they can do is to engage their children in fun ways and encourage skill-building so that when life becomes difficult, their children will have had a bit of practice and the knowledge that their family is always there to support and guide them.

Because the best education is not found in a classroom, but in the supportive embrace of those who love us the most.

Updated: Jul 19

The Summer Slide. Have you been affected by it? Have your kids? Believe me when I tell you, that you most certainly have not, at least not in the way you might imagine! In fact, the “summer slide”, as you know it, does not exist. Let me explain.


Let’s start by defining “summer slide”, or summer learning loss. This term is used to describe how a child “slides’ backwards when not attending school and not being in a constant state of academic consumption. In other words, kids forget what they have learned if they are not in a school environment.



This idea began to be widely accepted after a study regarding summer learning loss called the “Beginning School Study”, which started in the fall of 1982 with 838 first graders in the Baltimore City Public Schools was published. The students in the study were tested twice a year, in fall and spring, so researchers could tell how quickly they were learning during the school year and during summer vacation. The students ranged from the beginning of first grade to the end of eighth grade, with the learning gap growing more each year, primarily through the summer months.


The test scores seemed to be clear evidence; student academics suffered by ninth grade due to summer learning loss. The United States education system took the results as gospel and structured summer schools and the beginning of each new school year to reflect said loss.

The thing is, they were wrong.

In the 40 years since the “Beginning School Study” was conducted, many more studies have been tried to replicate the findings. They have not been successful. What the modern tests have shown us is that learning is complicated and there are so many variables that a blanket term like “summer slide” is erroneous and dangerous for those students who base their abilities on the results. If a child believes they are unintelligent, and standardized tests say they become even less intelligent during the summer, how well will they likely perform in school the following year?



According to Paul von Hippel, a prominent Summer Learning Loss scholar, what has been made very clear is that true academic gaps, or loss, likely happens by the age of three, with modern tests indicating that most of the eighth-grade achievement gap is already present at the start of Kindergarten.


In fact, the public policy think tank, American Enterprise Institute states,

“School can’t give children an equal opportunity at the starting gate because children’s start doesn’t occur in school. Indeed, a substantial body of science strongly suggests that the foundation for educational opportunity is laid not at age five — or four or three — but beginning at birth.”

So, if it isn’t the loss of time in school that accounts for the achievement gaps seen by ninth grade, what is it? It appears that being successful in an academic setting, like school, boils down to one thing; reading.

Yep, the very thing that you are doing right now is what will determine how successful a person will be throughout their academic career. New research shows the difference between reading to kids at home and not is more than a million words by kindergarten!


Studies show that families who actively read and engage with books from birth through third grade, have children who score higher on tests and are able to lessen the achievement gap by the beginning of ninth grade. Reading aloud to and with, young children not only helps them to be successful at school, it also helps with their social and emotional development.

In “The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction” (HarperCollins, 2019), Meghan Cox Gurdon discusses the latest neuroscience and behavioral research linking reading aloud to cognitive and social-emotional benefits for young children.


“That is all well and good”, you say, “but what if my child is now in third grade, not a newborn? What can I do to help?”


My answer to you is this:

Read to, and with, your child. Take them to the library and help them find books based on their interests. Fairy tales, biographies, how-to books, graphic novels, gardening books, it just doesn’t matter. As long as they have an interest and they chose it, reading that book is what will help them be more successful in the coming school years.


Certainly, if your child attends school, academic success is likely important to you, but it is prudent to remember that engaging with books and applying what was learned from the reading, also helps them to be happier and more successful human beings.


Characters:

- Work through emotional situations

- Build structures

- Plant food

- Invent contraptions


Reading how characters work through emotional situations may assist your children in creating a toolbox on which they can rely if they find themselves in a similar situation. Reading how characters build structures, plant food, or invent contraptions, allows them to see how they might do those things themselves. Reading doesn’t just allow us to have far-flung adventures, it helps us to imagine a better world for all of its inhabitants.


So, this summer, spend some time as a family at your local library. I have yet to find a library system in the US which doesn’t offer summer reading programs with prizes and activities. Why, right here in Pierce County the library system is offering their program called “Read Beyond the Beaten Path”.


Their website states,

“Reading is an important way to stay engaged during the summer. The library provides reading experiences for all ages to find enrichment and enjoyment in reading, minimize the summer slide, and maintain academic skills. Interest-based reading has been proven to improve school success and it’s also a lot of fun!

Research done by US libraries found that reading just 4 to 6 books over the summer has the potential to prevent a decline in reading achievement scores from the spring to the fall, so even small steps are very beneficial.


Yes, reading to and with your child may close academic achievement gaps and prevent the “summer slide”, but, more importantly, it may be the very thing that ushers in a future where gaps no longer hold anyone back from achievement.


Reading is much more important than negating a “summer slide” or academic achievement gaps. Reading is the doorway by which every person passes through to find themselves listening to voices from the past and viewing images of the future.

A child who reads is a child who holds the reins of their future confidently and with purpose.


When a child learns to read, the world becomes a place that belongs to them and one which they are able to fashion into a more just home for all. A reader becomes an orator and an orator can soften the hearts of humans and create a space of love and understanding.


So, dear readers, I will leave you with these words from one of the most prominent literary women of the 19th century, Margaret Fuller,


“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”

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