Summer Reading; Should it be Required?

Summer Reading; Should it be Required?
Summer Reading; Should it be Required?

As an English teacher myself, I was surprised when my elementary-aged child came home without a summer reading list. I’ve read about the alarming statistics—the ones that show us how students who don’t read during the summer break fall behind significantly in literacy. The “summer slide” occurs when students lose a large amount of information they’ve learned in prior school years because they haven’t exercised their skills over the break. At first, I started creating my own summer list for him in my head. “He needs to read this and this and this to be prepared for the next grade”. Then, I stopped. Do you know what I had yet to consider? The fact that he may have a preference about what to read over his summer break. Of course, I believe that we, as parents and teachers, are responsible for providing guidelines for kids. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that giving children a choice with how to spend their time can often have great benefits.

Recently, we’ve seen a transition in homework guidelines. Mostly, this is due to the fact that no studies have been able to conclude that homework does, in fact, benefit students. With students in school at least seven hours per day, excess homework can make students overwhelmed. However, with students attending school ten out of twelve months of the year, we conclude that this extended break needs homework, too.

It seems that I’m not alone in my indecisiveness over this issue—there are others questioning the recommended reading that’s become a staple in most schools.

What if we created a summer suggestions list instead? 

Better yet, what if we celebrated the experiences children have over the summer just as much? 

What if we encouraged them to fill a list of all the things they learned both inside AND outside of a book this summer?

Wouldn’t that encourage creativity, too?

There’s no question that reading encourages literacy. However, a premade summer reading list can discourage reading for fun. I wonder—shouldn’t we be promoting enjoyable reading just as much as literacy, when falling in love with a certain genre of books could have a long-lasting effect on students far beyond the walls of a school?

With ten months of “forced” reading topics, the summer reading list can give the feeling of continuous homework throughout the “free” months. 

One high school has changed the game by asking their students to participate in three cultural activities during the summer; the students must document the events with photos. This school put the emphasis on experience instead of literacy alone.

Two professors created a program that allowed students to choose free used books to take home over the summer. This not only promotes literacy but also increases the chances of students actually reading the books because they have chosen the content.

There are many ways to get creative in asking students to keep learning over the seemingly long summer break: a summer bucket list of activities, programs that offer free books in exchange for a filled reading log, library visits, and more experiences that may not take place during the school year.

What are your students reading, or doing, this summer?

Summer Reading; Should it be Required?

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Whitney Ballard is a writer and teacher from small town Alabama. She owns the Trains and Tantrums blog, Whitney went from becoming a mom at sixteen to holding a Master’s degree in Education; she writes about her journey, along with daily life, through a Christian lens on her blog. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her in the backyard with her husband, two boys, and two dogs.

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