As of last week, my kids are on summer break. School’s out! The kids got off the bus excited to leave homework and the like behind. And I was more than happy to let them have some time to unwind, however, we want my oldest to work on his reading so we’re having him work on book reports over the summer.
Sounds like a bummer, huh? Well, we’ve worked out a system to help encourage him to keep up on the reading and hopefully not make it too much of a chore. I’ve promised to do all the reading that he does along with him.
We started out by going to the library and picked out a literal double arm-load of books. While the toddler kept running away from me in the stacks (an activity she found to be frickin’ hilarious), I let my oldest browse around for things he might like to read. I only had a couple of ground rules for whatever he picked: it couldn’t be a comic book (not that I don’t like comics, I love comics, but he need something with more words), and there had to be two copies available so that I could read whatever he chose to read too. We walked away with seven books, for the two of us to read, plus a bunch of comic books for him to read on his own. He picked a mix of old and new books, and I made a couple of suggestions as well.
I asked him to pick out whichever book we’d start with and he chose a classic that I read at least a couple times when I was about his age, Hatchet by Gary Paulson. If you’re not familiar with the title, Hatchet is the story of Brian, a 13-year-old boy flying in a single engine plane from upstate New York to the Canadian oil fields. When the pilot has a heart attack and dies while flying over a pine forest that stretches out as far as the eye can see, Brian is forced to survive on his own after the plane crashes. It’s a story of survival and nature.
The way we’ve been doing it is I’ve been reading ahead and he reads a chapter a day. Then I ask him 3 or 4 questions about the chapter. We talk about what he’s read and what he thinks about the story and what it might be like to be in a situation like that. I try to help him understand what’s going on and we get to share the story. Plus, I get to re-read a childhood favorite. Even as an adult, I find this to be an enjoyable story.
Other books that we’ve got waiting for us are the Inkheart trilogy by Cornelia Funke, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (this is another one I suggested), and a handful of books from the I Survived series.
I know it sounds kind of cruel to have a kid do mini book reports over summer break, but he’s only spending about a half an hour a day reading. Plus, I’m hoping he finds this to be a bonding experience.
What about you, do you make your kids do something to keep their minds sharp over summer break when school’s out? If so, what do you do to keep their minds ready for when they go back to school in the fall?