School is winding to a close, and kids are already getting a whiff of freedom. It's time to start thinking about ways to keep your child's brain on track over the break. Summer reading may just be the best way to keep your child learning: it's portable, fun, and just a trip to the library away!

Reading over the summer months has a myriad of benefits, including increased vocabulary, better scores on tests, improved understanding of concepts, and imaginative exploration of other times and worlds.

This is especially important for resistant readers. “It is so important to encourage summer reading. Our most vulnerable literacy learners show a decline in reading proficiency over the summer,” says Linda B. Gambrell, Distinguished Professor of Education at Clemson University and former President of the International Reading Association. Reading just four or five books during the summer may prevent a student’s decline in reading achievement from spring to fall.

Want to keep your kids from suffering a summer reading setback? The key is finding books that interest your child. Your local library is a great place to start. Children's librarian Karen Quinn says, “Surround them with books, and make frequent visits to the library.”

Area summer reading programs are a fabulous way to get kids to become avid readers. Motivations include special attention from parents and librarians, prizes, and participation in special entertainment, such as storytelling times, musical performances, and games. These types of incentive programs make reading fun, not a chore.

Reading is even more fun when you're reading something you enjoy, so tap into your kid’s areas of interest. If your son shows an interest in sports, there are lots of great authors writing about athletes. Have a preteen fascinated by jewelry? Help her find well-written books on the subject.

It’s also important that parents teach by example. Even if you’re a reluctant reader, show them that you like to read. Choose one day of the week to make a family trip to the library and set aside time every night to read (together and independently). Just as importantly, ask questions about what your child is reading and share what you’re learning, too.

“We know that talking about books encourages and supports reading engagement. With this in mind, spend a few minutes after family reading time letting everyone tell about what they read,” says Gambrell.

By cultivating an environment in which reading is expected and enjoyed, your kids (and you!) have a great summer of literary entertainment ahead.

Need help getting started with a summer reading list? Here's some top picks from the International Reading Association and the Children's Book Council.

Grades K–2

Dino-Dinners by Mick Manning & Brita Granstrom

Five Little Monkeys Go Shopping by Eileen Christelow

Frankie Stein by Lola M. Schaefer, illustrated by Kevan Atteberry

How to Be a Baby by Me, The Big Sister by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Sue Heap

Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark Ken Geist and Julia Gorton

Grades 3–4

Babymouse: Camp Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Big Cats by Elaine Landau

Monday with a Mad Genius by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca

The Richest Poor Kid by Carl Sommer and Jorge Martinez

Wolves by Duncan Searl

Grades 5–6

Beowulf by Paul D. Storrie, illustrated by Ron Randall

Encyclopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee

Ghosts by Stephen Krensky

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley by Colin Thompson, illustratrated by Amy Lissiat

When the Shadebush Blooms by Carla Messinger with Susan Katz, illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden

Young Adult

Being Bindy by Alyssa Brugman

15 Minutes by Steve Young.

My Lost and Found Life by Melodie Bowsher.

School’s Out—Forever by James Patterson

Small Steps by Louis Sachar