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Make Summer Reading Fun

Third-grader Kathleen O'Meara has just three summer-reading books to get through this summer, but her mother, Rebecca, still expects a struggle. Without the structure of school, "I know I'm going to have to push her a little," says the New Orleans mom. Even the best students can balk at doing "homework" over vacation. Ways to make it less work and more fun for both of you:

Add an audience. Have your child read out loud to you, his younger siblings, or even his toys or pets. Kathleen, for example, loves to hold dramatic readings for her dogs, Coco and Scruffy.

Start a book club. Invite some of your kid's classmates over, and serve snacks related to the book  -- jumbo-size cookies, for instance, are a perfect fit for Roald Dahl's The BFG (short for Big Friendly Giant). Or ask the children to come dressed as their favorite characters.

Set up a screening. After your child finishes a book, watch the movie together, if there is one. When it's over, ask him whether he liked the book or the film better  -- and why  -- and what differences he noticed between the two.

Make a scrapbook. In it, your kid can list each book he's assigned to read and put a star beside the titles he's finished. Each star earns a small reward, such as a bookmark. He can also jot down his comments and criticisms, or illustrate passages he loved  -- his imagination's the limit!

Send a letter to the author. If your child really loves one of the books, ask if he'd like to write to the author (make sure, of course, that she's still living!). You can address the letter in care of the publisher, or check for contact information on the Internet. Make a copy of the letter  -- and the response, if there is one  -- to save in the scrapbook.