Thoughts and Tips for Summer Reading: Part 1

Thoughts and Tips for Summer Reading

In just under a month our son will be going back to school. (And once again I am reminded of how time flies!)  Aside from paying necessary school fees, and purchasing school supplies and clothes, our son is preparing for the new school year by doing his summer assignments, in particular, his summer reading for English class.  Even for the best of students, summer reading can often be a grueling and daunting task.

And I think it’s almost as hard on the parents. If you are a parent who’s unfamiliar with the work your child is reading, you feel bad because there’s nothing you can do to help, and if they tell you they don’t like the book or don’t understand the book, you can’t say, “I know how you feel.”  On the other hand, if you ARE familiar with the work, you feel torn in regards to whether you should help with the assignment, and if so, how much should you help.  As someone who majored in English, this is especially difficult for me.  I love advising and helping others edit their papers and develop their ideas, but with our son, I have to hold back, because I know it’s important for him to do his own work, and my husband and I don’t want for him to be dependent on someone else to assist him on things that he is capable of doing by himself.

So in the last couple of years, I’ve mostly taken a hands off approach, and we’ve let him pass or fail on his own.  Today I’m going to share a few tips and ideas for you to pass along to your kids and ideas to help you get your child through their summer reading and assignments.  As it’s a topic that I know all too well, and because I’m currently dealing with it, I have a lot of ideas to share, so this will be a two-part post!

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  1.  For younger students. If you have younger children, who do not yet have summer assignments, try to do learning activities with them during the summer.  I recently read that 3 hours a week of reading and/or study time will help your child’s overall retention rate.  It’s also good to make sure your kids are constantly learning something, even if they are not in school.  And hopefully, if your kids are in the habit of year-round learning, this will make those high school summer assignments less of a shock.
  2. When your child does have summer assignments, get them to start early.  Time does fly, and the summer will be over before you know it!  They should also assume that the assignment will take them longer than they think.  Never assume you can read the entire book in a week, and always allow yourself more than a day to complete written assignments.  Even students who read and work fast should understand that the book may have flowery language or a dialect that may be hard to understand and might slow them down.
  3. Learn to pace yourself and stay on track.  Since we all have different abilities, it may be hard to determine how long it will take to complete an assignment, for this reason, aside from starting out early, student should learn to pace themselves and set goals so they can stay on track.  These goals may vary from person to person.  One student may benefit from reading 30 minutes a day or an hour a day.  Others may prefer to read a chapter a day or a certain number of pages a day.
  4. Finding something to love.  If you do enough reading, you’re going to come across something you don’t like.  When our son doesn’t like the book he is reading, I advise him to look for something in the book that he does like.  Instead of saying, “This book is terrible,” and leaving it at that, look for something interesting.  Is there a character you like?  Is there a character you hate?  Why?  You could also look for similarities between the current work you are reading and another work that you DID enjoy.  For example, our son said he loved reading, Julius Caesar.  So I would ask him, “What did you like about Julius Caesar?”  And then I’d try to help him think of a similarity between Julius Caesar and the work that he’s reading.  If there really are no similarities to be found, then I may pull something from the book that I think he will find interesting.  Or I may ask him a leading question that will get him to think.  For example, since he’s reading The Great Gatsby, I may say, “Tell me about Gatsby’s car.”  Then I’d ask, “Why do you think his car is important? What does it say about him?”
  5. Read ALL the instructions on the assignment sheet.  I shouldn’t have to say this, but we all know that many of us do things, especially school work, without reading all the directions.  When looking over the summer assignment, you should find out what the assignment is and when it is due.  (Is there a test on the first day of school?  Do I have to write an essay?  When is the essay due?)  But beyond that, look for other key instructions.  Often teachers will tell the students what they should look for as they read.  For example, this summer our son is reading The Great Gatsby, and his instructions say to pay attention to setting and characterization.  (I’d gamble, then, that the objective test he will have on the first day of school will include key questions about each character and questions about the settings.  Since these things have already been mentioned on the instructions, your student should make it a point to learn them.  I suggest underlining these things in the book and making notes on a separate sheet of paper.)
  6. Our electronic age has given kids a huge advantage, in terms of communication with instructors.  Make sure that your child emails or calls their teacher with any questions they may have regarding the assignment.  Teachers give out their contact information, because they WANT students to ask questions.  It’s a great opportunity not only to clear up questions, but also ask more in depth questions about the written assignment or upcoming quiz.  It’s also a great way to show initiative and let the teacher know you care about the class.  I also recommend that you have your child email the teacher, even if they do not have a particular question.  A quick introductory email to the teacher is a great way to let the teacher know that you care about the class and are working on your assignment.  (And on the first day of school, as the teacher goes through the roll, she will undoubtedly remember who contacted her during the summer and who did not.)

I hope you find these tips helpful.  Be on the look out for my next post, which will have more tips and advice regarding summer assignments.

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