My active four-year-old son decided it was easier to change pants later than use the toilet when it called. I can remember stressing out about it, writing in my prayer journal, and reading books to see what I was doing wrong. I finally came to the realization, that he would figure it out before he started driving a car, (or we wouldn’t give him the keys) so I needed to relax and let him get it right at his own speed!
This same child had issues with material. It all itched, or felt uncomfortable. It was hard to keep him in PJ’s, since he liked the freedom of his birthday suit. (This was strange to me that he didn’t mind wet pants while riding a bike for hours, but hated wearing the “wrong material” shirt to bed.) Once at a public park, I noticed a little too much “information” poking out the back of his pants, plumber-style, and realized he wasn’t even wearing underwear! Since this had happened more than once that week, I finally said, “Bud!! What is up with the no-underwear thing?! Do you EVER wear underwear?”
“Yes. On Fridays,” he said.
That was his reply. What?! Why?! Who told you that you could do that? And the rest of the “W” questions came to mind, but not one did I ask. I simply explained that we wear underwear. Every day. Including Fridays!
In our house, we wanted reading to be like underwear: a part of every-day-life!
We love to take the summer off of school schedules, but that doesn’t mean the summer off of learning. Summer reading bends well to allowing the freedom of choice: no homeschool curriculum to follow; no test for which to study; simply reading! Chris and I enjoy our summer reading assignments for our kids so much, that we are almost insulted when their teachers (our older kids go to a Christian high school while the younger ones homeschool) assign “summer reading”. We like it when we get to choose topics!
WHY summer reading?
Reasons for summer reading:
- Habits made when they are “off school” as children could plant seeds for habits they create when they are “off school” more permanently as adults.
- Silently reading during the summer is a time when they are not fighting with each other. (not that my kids would ever do that…)
- The content of the books can be targeted specifically per child, not necessarily what an entire class or curriculum demands.
- Topics they didn’t understand during the year may be expounded upon for better understanding. (OK, I have never done this, but it sounded so good in the list of reasons, I decided to include it anyway.)
- Fictional books that would never make the school list make for a fun time reading – which subconsciously improves writing, and increases the pleasure of reading.
- Vacation travel time turns into reading time instead of screen time.
- It gives moms and dads time to read. 😊 Why not pop some popcorn and sit with books instead of a movie?
- Reading looks more fun in a hammock or next to the campfire, than when it is squished between homework assignments at the table, giving it a better light for the future.
- One hour/day completes four books in a month of the average adult reader. Three or four books for a summer is doable even if the child has a summer job or wants lots of outdoor playtime.
- Sometimes our entire family reads the same book, making for nice conversation at the dinner table when everyone knows the topic. (Like “Gifted Hands” by Ben Carson or “Toughen Up” by Claude Hamilton.)
HOW to do summer reading?
The specifics are not important, because I know you can figure it out for your family, but in general, Chris picks out a stack of books for each child, and hands it to them before the school year ends. If they are not done with “summer reading” by August 1st, it becomes their priority before they can go outside. (Note: everybody has always been done by August 1st, so we have never had to exercise this.) As usual, screen time would totally take away from reading time, so it is a plus that video games and television are extremely limited in our house, regardless of the season. We do not assign a time or daily reading, or it would turn into feeling like homework. We do not pay them to read or it might turn into a job. We do not make it extremely challenging, or it would feel like the stack is just too huge. It is a combination of pleasure reading with thought-provoking content, but truly all habit-forming, so once they learn to read, they can read to learn anything for the rest of their lives. They of course can also read books we haven’t assigned as “summer reading,” but the idea of assigning three or four is to expand upon what they already know they like.
My dream is that as they grow up and leave the house, they would write home and ask dad what his summer reading assignment would be… but I may just be dreaming.
What to read?
I thought you might ask, so I found pictures of their stacks from a few years ago – and those are shown in the margins above. Come back tomorrow for a letter with a list of their favorites. I even have my own stack going, though mine does not only exist in the summer! A parent’s love [or hate] of reading will be contagious, whether we want it to influence them or not; my example carries further than my words, so my reading stack is almost as important as theirs.
In addition to picking art-stories for our little artist and sports biographies for our sports-enthusiasts, we introduce the kids to some sailing stories or historical fiction to increase the breadth of their reading and topics for conversation. Faith-based non-fiction is an important aspect as well. Summer reading can be kind of the catch-all to throw in what we want to make sure they catch before they leave the house as adults. So how long do they have to read? …until they “get” to read. Summer reading is just one more way to remind them that reading is a good thing – and not one from which we need a break.
Happy reading-every-day, including Fridays… and summers!
(cartoon featured image by Christine Brady)