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KNOXVILLE — Playing in the sprinkler, eating popsicles and catching fireflies are all things children enjoy in the summer. This year, add reading to the list.

Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen, education professors at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, are experts in reading education and offer parents five strategies to encourage summer reading.

“For young students, reading is a skill that improves with practice. Reading during the summer is critical for children,” Allington says. McGill-Franzen adds, “Without practice, reading skills deteriorate. Summer reading helps children maintain their skill level or even make gains.”

Here are five tips:

1. Children Like Choices — Let your child pick out their own books and reading materials. Studies have indicated that children are more motivated to read when they choose their own books.

2. Reading Is Reading — Magazines and newspapers also are useful in encouraging reading. Children can pick from a slew of topics for magazines such as cheerleading, video games, cars, skateboarding, animals and music.

3. Captain Underpants and More — Series books such as “Captain Underpants,” “Frog and Toad,” Bill Cosby’s “Little Bill” and the “Animorphs” may seem simplistic and repetitive to teachers and parents, but they are enjoyed by children. Conversational books make reading easier and give children confidence in their reading skills.

4. Books on a Budget — Encouraging reading does not have to be expensive. Stick with paperbacks, buy books on sale, find books for 25 cents or less at garage sales or visit the library. Parents could start a children’s book swap in their neighborhood or at church.

5. Be an Example — A recent study found only one in four adults reported reading one book in a year. Parents who make time to read show their children that reading is an important part of their life.

Allington and McGill-Franzen are parents of five children who are all college graduates. Allington is a former president of the National Reading Conference and member of the International Reading Association’s board of directors. He has won many awards and written more than 100 articles and several books on children’s reading difficulties. McGill-Franzen, director of the UT Reading Center, has won a number of awards for her research and has authored both books and articles on young children’s literacy development.

For media who would like to set up an interview with Allington and/or McGill-Franzen, contact:

Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179,