As many of you know, I am the youngest of nine children, and that ranking comes with many, many nieces and nephews. Last year around this time, my oldest nephew graduated from high school and left for the Air Force Academy, while one of my nieces graduated from kindergarten. This year it’s another niece who will be attending my own alma mater, Virginia Tech, and still a different niece who will be starting kindergarten in the fall. As it turns out, for the past 14 years, I have had a niece or nephew graduate from kindergarten every year, and for the next 13 there will be one graduating high school.
Graduation, from kindergarten through high school, makes everyone think “School’s out! Off for the summer!” This brings to mind the importance of summer reading. Teachers of young students everywhere will tell you about the strain of the summer reading gap: those months between the last day of school and the first day of the new school year when students revel in their “freedom” from homework and learning, then return and have to “relearn” much of what was lost over the summer. This doesn’t just happen to struggling readers, though it’s hardest on them.
This summer, be proactive with your children. This is the time to help them see reading not as part of homework but as a leisure activity. Remember when our lives actually included leisure activities? Remember lying on the beach with a fantastic novel that you chose yourself and no one was going to quiz you about the next day? Sometimes children who are just learning to read haven’t quite grasped the luxury that reading affords. Reading is a necessity, but it can also be a luxury.
So this summer, make it a point to find lots of reading materials that will get your child excited about reading. Look not only for standard books, but for comic books and magazines and the backs of cereal boxes. If you are doing any traveling this summer, hop on the Web and find some good books about the places you’re going. Let your child help plan the vacation by reading up on it and becoming invested in the destination.
I often hear parents say their children have much more homework now than when they were children. Use this summer to give your kids a break by showing them that reading IS a break. It’s a lesson they’ll practice from kindergarten graduation throughout the rest of their lives.
*Special thanks to Jennifer Young for the use of her art. www.jenniferyoung.com