5 Ways to Set (and Achieve) Big Reading Goals

This summer kids across the country have united to set a reading world record. They have been logging all of their minutes read through the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge. If you've been following along then you've heard the glorious news: our nation's children have surpassed 220 million minutes read! This smashes the record set in 2013 and more importantly will permanently boost each participants' confidence, stamina and identity as a reader. In less than a month kids will head back to school. Let's use this amazing excitement and love for reading that has been nurtured over the summer as incentive for year-long literacy growth. Here are 5 tips for setting and achieving big reading goals this back-to-school season.

1. Let children own their reading goals.

Introduce your child to joyful goal-setting by giving him control over his reading life. Cultivating a healthy habit of challenging himself to see what he is capable of can and should start from an early age. Allowing him to set his own terms will make him accountable for his goals and it will also ensure that his goals are in line with who he is as a reader. Does he want to read 5 non-fiction books in 2 months? Does he want to read for 11 minutes after dinner each night? Does he want to read aloud to his pet hamster every morning? Support him in his mission to name goals that will present a joyful challenge.

2. Bring a buddy on board.

Doing anything with a friend is more fun, and having a buddy on board provides healthy competition and companionship. Your child will be more likely to dig deep and build reading muscles if he has someone to compare notes and progress with on a regular basis. Allowing your child and her friends to connect as readers will add a new dimension to the friendship. Discussing books and strategies for reading (where is the best place to read? why are some books harder to connect with than others?) brings new value to the act of reading.
3. Celebrate the milestones.

Decide with your child how you will track his progress towards each reading goal. Make a tracking chart or a sticker or badge system (for example, a sticker for every half hour read, five stickers equals a special badge) and display this chart in a special place in your home. Breaking up bigger goals into smaller milestones allows you to celebrate each extraordinary step your child takes and it also breaks the goal into smaller, achievable steps.

4. Remember that minutes matter.

For all readers, and struggling readers especially, make it clear that becoming a strong reader is not about finishing a book. Each precious minute that your child reads matters. Regardless of whether or not your child has reached a mini-milestone, affirm his hard work after every effort that he devotes to his reading goals. Make his growth evident to him by letting him know when he reads for even one minute longer than the day before. Gradual changes can be hard for children to notice as they are happening, having you as a coach and champion goes a long way.

5. Mix it up.

Keep your child engaged in reading goals by adding variation to your "mini challenges." Make sure to vary the time period for each (make month or longer goals, but also make week-long goals) and create themed challenges around the seasons or special events and occasions. Your child may decide to read only animal-themed books in October or poetry books in April. Another idea is to pair reading with an action. For a running and reading challenge your child could decide to run for as many minutes as he is able to read.