The school year is winding down, and parents and students alike feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction as they close their books for the last time. Biology is done! History is over! No math until autumn! It’s time to swap pencils for pool noodles and online classes for family road trips. Summer is here so it’s time to relax…with a good book.
“Wait!” you cry. “I just found the last book under a pile of Junior’s dirty socks and managed to squeeze it onto the bookshelf. It’s staying there until little Josephine needs it one day. We need a break from books.” Of course, we all need a change of pace from time to time, and that’s one of the great joys of summer. So take a few days to unwind, but then consider the following reasons why you and your students should keep some books handy all summer long.
Benefits of Summer Reading
The beauty of summer reading is the freedom of choice. Nothing is assigned. Pleasure reading means you choose the books that appeal to you and replace them if they lose their luster. Wander the stacks at your local library or browse through your Kindle and open any book that piques your interest. Research shows that reading for fun outside of school impacts educational success and has positive emotional and social results. The key word here is fun. You don’t have to wade through Tolstoy’s War and Peace to sharpen your mind or expand your social consciousness. As long as you enjoy what you’re reading, you reap the benefits.
“What kind of benefits?” you wonder. Well, you won’t be surprised to learn that reading outside of school brings rewards during the school year, but you may not realize just how significant they are. A report out of New Zealand found that students who enjoyed reading scored higher in math, reading, and problem solving while a UK report revealed noticeable progress in vocabulary, spelling, and math among book lovers compared to book neglecters. But the improvement goes beyond what a standardized test can measure. Pleasure reading creates deep reservoirs of imagination and creativity that allow students to soar beyond basic educational goals. British author Neil Gaiman makes an excellent case that fiction reading in particular provides the fodder for literacy. After being lost in a fantasy world, we find ourselves better equipped to meet the challenges in our world. (Gaiman also makes a lovely case for honoring libraries as depositories of all good things.)
You probably didn’t need to be persuaded that reading is good for students, but did you know the advantages extend beyond grades? The same NZ report also showed that students who continued reading after assignments ended demonstrated above average scores for school engagement, close family ties, and strong friendships. In addition, reading fiction has been shown to increase empathy, allowing for greater compassion and understanding between peers. Plus, researchers from the University of Sussex have learned that reading reduces stress better than other relaxation techniques such as listening to music, going for a walk, or playing a video game, making it the perfect summer activity for kids and parents.
Together or Alone
If academics and extracurriculars have scattered your crew all year long, you may be ready for some memorable family time. Choosing a read aloud everyone will enjoy is easier than you think. You can ask your park day friends which tales they’ve adored, check with your local library for summer reading lists, or go online for great ideas from Simple Homeschool, Focus on the Family, and Read-Aloud Revival. Or maybe you’ve been a little too close since September and everyone needs some space. Let each family member read his or her pick by the pool and share the best parts during a weekly summer barbecue. You can even use our Summer Reading download to hold your own Literary Academy Awards. It doesn’t matter how you go about it, as long as you do it.
When you read for pleasure, whether it’s immersive, intellectual, social, or work-related pleasure, you are building the foundation for academic and social success in school and in life. Now, that’s not a bad way to spend the summer.
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