“There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.” --Marcel Proust
Summer vacation is just around the corner, and high school students especially are counting the days. Perhaps they are mostly looking forward to sleeping in, hanging out with friends, and spending time in our beautiful Colorado mountains. Unfortunately, few of them are looking forward to uninterrupted time for reading. There is no other indicator, however, of academic success than reading, and it doesn’t have to be complicated.
According to extensive educational research, Independent reading (reading that students choose on their own,) relates directly to student success in school. As students get older more and more of them choose not to read voluntarily. Academics, extra curriculars, and other demands on their time draws them away from books. Summer vacation is a great time to encourage reading again. Whether a teen is a prolific or a reluctant reader, there is so much variety of reading material out there that encouraging reading again can lead to positive results. The key is to make it truly independent reading, meaning there are no assignments, restrictions, or negative consequences related to it. It is done solely for the pleasure of the reader.
What does work successfully, however, according to research summarized by the American Library Association, is reading across a wide variety of genres, parent and other significant adults’ active involvement, and community programs that engage students.
What does that look like as parents are thinking about the summer and their teen’s plans? Here are just a few suggestions:
- First and foremost, find your library cards! If you don’t have one go get one. I have one for Pikes Peak, Douglas County, and Denver libraries! (I am a self described library nerd and proud of it!) They are all free and when I can’t find the book I am looking for at my local library I can request one be sent when available from the other PPLD branches. The Douglas County and Denver library systems have great e-book loans, and I love being able to reserve a study room when I am working in Denver or its environs.
- Today you can read most ebooks directly on your phone or tablet. This electronic medium is familiar to teens, but I still love the smell of a book! However, you always have a book with you when you have an ereader on you. Always encourage the breadth and depth available through a book, journal article, or news article on a well respected and more importantly, vetted source. Libraries subscribe to many e-journal and news databases that are easy to access and already thoroughly vetted for “fake news!”. Guess what else? Your teen can access many of the same databases through their High School’s library all summer long!
- Going on vacation? Have your teen do the research about the location. There is a whole travel section in the library! We checked out a book before our most recent vacation to France and it was tres bon!
- Choose a book that you and your teen can read together and talk about. I remember reading The Book Thief a t my son’s urging when he was in middle school. The entire family ended up reading it and it made for some really engaging dinner conversation.
- Find a medium that your teen will enjoy. Graphic novels, YA themes, classics, books about music, sports, pop culture, it is all out there. Fiction, non-fiction, it doesn’t matter, the more variety the better.
- Get involved in the library’s summer reading challenge. Find out what other reading and writing activities are being sponsored at the library this summer. Encourage your teen to start a book club with their friends.
- Be positive and encourage them to read, at their level, and at their leisure. There is nothing more discouraging than having someone give you a list of books they think you should read. Give them the opportunity to choose books they will like and that they will enjoy.
- Model the behavior. Let them catch you reading.