Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Summer Reading: 2021 Edition

This is my 16th summer as a mother. In that time I’ve tried all kinds of ways to keep my kids reading through the hottest months of the year: library programs with their disappointing prizes (one year, our library gave out 1 raffle entry/book read, the prize was a bike but they didn’t announce the winner until September…try explaining that to an eight-year-old), homemade reading charts (thanks, Pinterest), and plain, old-fashioned begging. 

Last year our reading plan was pretty successful. Most days the kids read for an hour but it was almost always a painful hour. I made book baskets for each kid based on what I thought they should read and the lists of summer reading ideas from their teachers. If they completed the books in their basket they would get $50. I have learned that my children are best motivated by cold, hard cash—they take after their mom and dad, I guess.

As summer approached this year, I reflected on last year, what worked and what didn’t. Yes, all four kids read all of the titles in their baskets, but I had to drag them to the den daily and they complained about it loudly. 

I remembered the summer I spent devouring Gone with the Wind, just because I wanted to read a really ambitious book. There was another summer when I stayed up late reading through The Babysitters Club Super Special editions with a flashlight in my bed. Lazy days spent stretched out on the couch reading, with the AC blasting and a pile of books nearby marked most of my summers from kindergarten through eighth grade. These are some of my fondest reading memories.

I also remembered the summers in high school with lists of books I was required to read and journal about. One or two of those books made an impression, but those summers were nothing like my past experiences or the way I felt getting lost in Life of Pi on a beach in Kauai just a few years later. 

I decided I had to improve upon last year’s summer reading plan. There will still be a minimum hour of daily reading, there will still be $50, there will still be book baskets. The major difference is that this year, the kids get to pick the books they read.

We had reading meetings last week (this may be my favorite kind of meeting ever). They shopped our shelves and thought about what they wanted to read this summer. I explained that if a book is not working for them we can swap it out. We can be flexible. Isn’t that what we all learned in 2020?

They each brought lists with a wide variety of books and even some that completely surprised me. I don’t know if this will turn from a “have to” to a “get to” situation, but I do know there is already more excitement about summer reading than last year. And who knows, maybe one of the kids will connect with a book like I did with Gone with the Wind, maybe they will stay up late reading, or pack a book in a beach bag. Hope springs eternal. 

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