It's finally summer, the great outdoors are calling, and sitting down with a book might be just about the last thing your child would choose to do. After all, doesn't that sound kind of like school?

Sure, summer reading does have a lot to do with learning. But that doesn't mean it has to be dull. Summer can be a great time to exercise not only the body but the mind as well. As Elizabeth Kennedy, expert contributor to's Guide to Children's Books, says, "Any time you read, you tend to increase your vocabulary, knowledge, and understanding, even if your motivation for reading is fun."

A great resource for summer reading is your local library's summer reading programs. Many libraries have established programs which can provide extra incentives and guidance to kids for summer reading.

Nancy Smith, a librarian in Washington County, MN, says, "The goal is to keep kids reading through the summer, so they don't fall back." The summer reading program at Smith's library, like at many others, sets reading goals for young readers – challenging them to read (or be read to) 10, 20 or more hours over the summer. Along with goals, the library offers rewards. After completing 20 hours of reading, kids get their names posted on the library's "wall of fame." Readers' names are also entered in drawings for surprise prizes.

Many libraries also offer age-appropriate book clubs and story times for babies on up to teens. Attending story time can even be used as reading time that works towards the child's reading goal.

But wait – what about reading just for fun? Kennedy notes that "Summer also provides time for kids to enjoy purely recreational reading, with no pressure to read certain books or to pass follow-up tests, just a chance to discover the joy of reading for its own sake." Summer, with its hours of free time and slower pace, provides the perfect opportunity to read for pleasure instead of sticking to assigned books. It's a great time for kids to explore whatever they enjoy or interests them, through books. That makes summer reading a top way to prevent the notorious "summer slip" that puts so many kids behind when they return to school in September.

But what about the reluctant reader who can't be persuaded by simple rewards to pick up a book? As Kennedy points out, "Their continued participation is dependent on their being connected with books at the appropriate reading level on subjects that interest them." To this end, a children's or teen librarian can be an excellent resource when trying to locate interesting books that will appeal to your child. The librarian can also help with finding age-appropriate books that cover subjects your child has a particular interest in. Ladybugs anyone? Or maybe volcanoes?

Summer reading has the potential, maybe even more than during the school year, to turn a reluctant reader into a voracious one, if they take the opportunity to delve into subjects that they find fascinating. Make this a reading summer! Your kids – and their teachers – just might thank you.