Thoughts and Tips for Summer Reading: Part 2

Thoughts and Tips for Summer Reading

Yesterday I posted some thoughts and tips to help your kids with summer reading, and today I am continuing with this topic.  In particular, I’m giving some basic advice on handling writing assignments and study questions.

7. Another great thing about the electronic age is that it gives our kids a huge advantage in terms of being able to use the internet to better understand what they have read.  As an English major myself, I can’t recommend Spark Notes and other sites as a substitute for the actual reading, but I do think they can be a good companion.  They can help to clear up questions a student may have about the reading and help them to better understand themes, motifs, and literary devices in the work. However, essays and criticisms found online should always be taken with a grain of salt.  Students should  keep in mind that there are a lot of ways to interpret literature; while Spark Notes may focus heavily on a particular topic, their teacher may not discuss the topic at all.

8. They should also AVOID using Spark Notes for help with essays and long form writing assignments.  First of all, Spark Notes is not considered a legitimate source, secondly students should remember that teachers have internet access as well, and it is very easy to plagiarize even if you don’t mean to do so.

9. If you student has study questions to go along with the book, I suggest trying to answer these as they go along.  Many teachers would, perhaps, be against this strategy, but I believe it’s easier to answer a few questions at a time, than to try and tackle a hundred or two hundred questions all at once.  Also, by the time your child has read a 250-page book, they may not recall every single thing that happened, which means they will have to do a lot of searching and re-reading, which takes a lot of extra time.

10. You may also find that your student has guided reading questions that are optional.  Personally, as a teacher I would never give optional questions, because I would assume that less than half the class will spend ample time looking over them or answering them if they are optional.  But as a student, a parent of a student, and a teacher I recommend that students read over and try to answer all questions that are given, even if they are optional, especially if there is to be a test on the first day or first week of school.  One can assume that an objective test will include questions based on or taken directly from the guided reading questions.


11. Don’t just read. Annotate as you read.  Honors and AP teachers, as well as college professors expect for you to not just read the assignment but attempt to better understand it through annotation.  This includes underlining or highlighting portions of the book that you believe are important.  I also like to put stars out in the margin next to key parts and stars with circles around them next to very important parts.  You should also make short notes out in the margin.  You may simply write keywords like “irony” or “allusion” out the margin or write an important note about what’s happening in the scene:  “Tom’s having an affair.”  I also may flag important pages or write a note on a post-it and stick those on important pages.  This is helpful for class discussions, because teachers like for you to be able to cite your evidence and page numbers when you answer questions in class.

12. Essays and long form writing assignments.  If a long writing assignment has been given, it is important that your student finish this work as early as possible.  Even the most basic assignments require brainstorming, possibly research, the actual writing, and editing.  Making plans to do your work ahead of time will put you at great advantage.  Also, a lot of teachers will even allow students to send them a draft of their paper so that they can get some initial feedback and recommendations before the assignment is due.  (In my previous post, I recommended that you have your child email the teacher with any questions he has or just a write an email introducing himself/herself to the teacher.  If your child sends a basic email to introduce herself, this would be the perfect opportunity to ask, “Do you mind if I send over a draft of my paper?  I want to make sure I’m on the right track.”)

13. Helping with papers.  As I said at the beginning of my other post, we are trying to be as hands off as possible.  So when our son (or anyone else I know) needs help, I generally stick to a few basic things.  Instead of telling him about the book or answering a question for him, we discuss the book or question.  Often our son’s biggest problem is getting started writing, so to help him, I would look at his writing assignment and then I’d ask him for his ideas.  What does he want to write about?  If a particular idea stands out or is interesting to him, he will do a far better job of developing his essay.  Once he’s gotten off to a good start, he can pretty much write the paper himself. From there, I just give him a hint or two if he gets stuck, and I help him to proofread and edit his paper.

I hope you’ve found these tips helpful.  If you have any particular questions or thoughts on the subject, I’d love to hear from you.  Please comment on this post!



  1. […] 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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