Summer vacation: that time of year when students spend long days at the pool, longer weeks at camp, and even longer weeks trying to delay required summer reading. For most kids, August is the start of summer reading, which also means the start of panic. I have how much to read? And I have how much time to read it? If your child would rather be the catcher on the ball field than read "The Catcher in the Rye," then the following five reading strategies might need emergency deployment. Here’s how you can support your child in completing summer reading assignments before school begins in the fall:
1. Understand the Purpose for Summer Reading Assignment Before You Start
Oftentimes, summer reading is accompanied with a specific task to be completed post-reading, so finding out what that task is before your child begins reading is critical. If your child’s assignment is, for example, to make a case for how a particular character develops throughout the story, that cues readers to focus on that character as they go, marking places where significant events occur or where the character’s thoughtful musings highlight some major maturation. Or, does your child need to be reading for information because there will be a start-of-the-year test? If that’s the case, then readers should be on the lookout for key concepts versus supporting details, determining which kinds of notes to take. If your child is not sure why they’re reading, they might end up with some great notes about symbols when they needed to be honing in on tone the whole time. And if that happens, they might end up having to reread the text that they struggled to read in the first place! Help them figure out the purpose for their summer reading assignment by beginning with the end in mind.
2. Schedule Reading During Peak Alertness
They might call them the lazy days of summer, but we know that kids aren’t lazy when it comes to certain activities: Go swimming for hours on end? Spend the whole day at a waterpark? Play a game of pick-up soccer? Whenever those events are proposed, energy seems to materialize out of nowhere. But when it comes down to summer reading, it might be harder for your child to muster up the motivation. Discuss with them at what times they feel most awake -- the peak of their attention -- and schedule reading time during that slot. If your child is a morning person, carve out with them a good hour in the AM. If their plan is to sleep until noon, then maybe a 1:00 reading slot is key. If your son or daughter is a night owl and cannot understand why they even make kids get up during the day, then an evening curled up with Ethan Frome is their best bet for capitalizing on their natural energy levels.
3. Break up Summer Reading Assignments into Small Chunks
Breaking up after a summer romance might be hard, but breaking up reading into smaller chunks is easy. When students see that they have that entire text ahead of them, they can sometimes freak out about the amount of work, causing procrastination followed by delay after delay. Breaking up summer reading into more manageable chunks shifts the focus to smaller goals and increases the likelihood that your child will begin reading since the commitment is one piece at a time. To do this, break summer reading assignments up according to chapters (just read one chapter a day) or as something to be tackled with short time increments (give me your best 30-minute power read each day) as opposed to viewing the book as a whole.
4. Active Reading: Glossing
Find out if your child is allowed to write in the summer reading books and, if so, tell him that it's a good idea to do that! Glossing is a form of taking notes on a text that encourages active reading. If your son or daughter is facing a particularly challenging summer reading assignment, invite your child to create a summary sentence, topic sentence or newspaper headline for each paragraph. Writing these glosses in the margins will help a student stay focused because there is a specific task to do at the end of each paragraph. If your child reports difficulty in writing a gloss because they’ve had one of those “what-the-heck-did-I-just-read?” moments, that’s your cue to invite them to go back and reread. Parental persuasive bonus for trying this strategy? When it comes time to prepare for the test on this reading assignment, your child can quickly scan the glosses as opposed to facing the whole text again in order to find key information.
5. DIY SparkNotes
No, no wait -- I don’t mean tell your kids to read SparkNotes instead of the required reading, I mean ask them to write an entry for SparkNotes. At the end of each chapter, have your child write a brief, SparkNotes-like version of events to share with you. If their entry makes sense to you and helps you understand the reading material, then that means they’ve done a good job representing the text. Plus, they can use their entries to quickly review the reading before any tests or papers on the book when they return to school. This method can be a helpful alternative to glossing if the paragraphs are short, the reading is a bit easier, and the chapters aren’t too long.
Now you’re armed with five ways to support your child in sustaining attention, taking notes, and persisting through their summer reading during the warm weeks of August. But, if you or your child are still feeling some anxiety about completing the reading tasks ahead, click below to access some helpful emotional regulation tools that can keep the reading stress under control.