Thoughts on Summer Reading

Well, it certainly is summer in Southern California! We’ve gone from May gray to June gloom to the current and predictable hot days of summer. Since you don’t want to feel like you are constantly having to entertain your kids during this two-month school break, help them get started on their summer reading so they can entertain themselves!
Over 30 years of research has shown that children who do not read during the summer actually lose a percentage of the academic gains they made during the school year.

According to the School Library Journal (Nov 2010, “Summer Reading Programs Boost Student Achievement, Study Says”), formal summer reading programs even increase students’ reading skills during the “down time” of summer:
Based on the findings of a recent three-year study by Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, we can confirm what many librarians have long suspected: students who take part in their local library’s summer reading program significantly improve their reading skills. In fact, we found that kids who participate in these programs are 52 Lexile points ahead of their peers who do not.
Woohoo! A shout-out to summer reading programs like ours 

I loved summer reading as a kid—you probably did too. I remember hours of lying on my bed reading Nancy Drew, Judy Blume, Madeline L’Engle, and Beverly Cleary. I remember finding new treasures at the library. I remember checking out cookbooks and how-to books, joke books, and activity books, and then taking them home to try them out.

Most schools have a required summer reading list for their students. That is great! There is not enough time to read every great classic, so encourage your child to enjoy these opportunities to be introduced to great classics that other kids have been reading for generations. And if you didn’t have a chance to read that classic, read it along with the kids! It’ll give you some great things to discuss, and it will be a beautiful memory-maker.

But I think summer reading is good for so much more than just getting some prep for the upcoming school year. Summer reading gives kids some great opportunities:

  1. Great opportunity to develop new interests
    Like I said, for me, summer was a time to spend hours going through the rows at the library. I would look through craft and activity books and see what I could make at home. I don’t remember anything turning out like it did in the books, but my friend, Michelle, and I had fun creating.

  2. Great opportunity to try a new genre
    Kids love reading series—that’s no secret. Since Nancy Drew and the Boxcar Children, kids have loved collecting, reading, and sharing books with the same characters and predictable plotlines. But summer might be a good time to try something completely new—a mystery for the fairy tale lover, a biography for the adventure series lover. The nice thing about summer reading is that if you don’t like a book you start, you just put it down. No pressure! No one is checking over your shoulder for comprehension. No one is forcing you to finish a book because you have a requirement to have a certain amount done by the end of the school year. It’s a great time for experimenting.

  3. Great opportunity to read “dessert” books
    For some reason, kids are drawn to books that aren’t always very edifying or exemplary. They want to just read something silly. Or from a movie they like. Or that has a cute magical pony on the cover. These will not be the classics they remember for the rest of their lives, but it is reading! I call these “dessert” books. You don’t want to make a meal of them, but an occasional dessert never hurt anyone ;-) And I think it’s fair to say we enjoy more dessert during the summer than other times of the year. So it should be with reading. There is nothing wrong with kids reading Captain Underpants during the summer.

  4. Great opportunity to read as a family
    Swiss Family Robinson, The Hobbit, The Secret Garden, Firefly Hollow (notice how I stuck my new favorite in there with these amazing classics?)—These are fabulous summer reads for families to do together. Books travel easily and anywhere—in a motel room, on the beach, in an RV, by the backyard fire pit. One summer, I read Frindle (Andrew Clement) aloud to my kids while we traveled in an RV to a variety of national parks. I loved that I would read one chapter a night, and it would kill them that I would stop at the end of each chapter—I loved leaving them wanting more! They couldn’t wait for the next night’s installment.

Since we know that summer reading at least main tains academic levels, this summer let your child read . . . read anything . . . as you enjoy your various adventures together.