How Summer Reading Is Different, for Both Kids and Teachers

By Anthony Rebora — July 02, 2014 1 min read
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Educational psychologist Daniel Willingham offers some tips (mostly for parents, but useful to educators as well) in The Atlantic on getting kids to read this summer. For starters, he recommends avoiding the temptation to offer rewards for reading or set daily reading targets. Such tactics, Willingham says, “come with bundled with an implicit message: ‘Your guess that reading is not fun must be right.’”

A more useful approach, he says (echoing Donalyn Miller), is simply to ensure kids have a lot of appealing books more or less at their finger tips (while limiting time with digital devices in certain situations):

An alternative is to change your home so that reading is the most appealing activity available when your child is looking for something to do. An easy way to start is to put books in places where your child gets bored. Put a basket of books in the minivan. Put a basket of books in the bathroom. Encourage older kids to put an ebook reader on their phones; any time they are stuck waiting in a line, they will have a book with them.

Willingham also makes the interesting point that it can be helpful to make sure kids understand the important distinctions between school reading and leisure reading. This can open up new possibilities for a young reader:

If [the child] only reads for school, she may think that reading means plodding through a "classic" book, start to finish, and that leisure reading differs only because she doesn't have to write a report when she's done. But leisure readers know that reading can mean non-fiction, or graphic novels, or manga. Leisure readers feel free to skip around, peek at the conclusion, skim boring parts, or drop a book altogether. If your child doesn't know these things, tell her.

(It seems kind of sad that some kids might not be aware of this, but in today’s often strident academic climate, who knows?)

Meanwhile, in Edutopia, teacher Joshua Block reflects on the critical importance of summer reading for educators—or at least for him:

In order to challenge the inevitable feelings of burnout and mechanization that I feel in June, I use summer to immerse myself in books and open myself to unplanned discoveries, ideas, and inspiration for the next school year. I aim to keep the list of books broad and include many different titles. My hope is to challenge and nurture myself in ways that relate directly to my teaching practice and in ways that nurture my identity outside of teaching.

Block offers some examples from his own rather eclectic summer reading list (from Thich Nhat Hanh to Meenoo Rami). His selections are also included on an Edutopia/ASCD Pinterest board on summer reading for educators. Have at it.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.