Summer brings a plethora of activities meant to keep children busy and/or learning during the Summer. This can be good and bad. Schedules are packed to the brim in order to make the best of the weeks off of school. And many children are offered incentives to continue to learn on top of other activities Summer brings. I get strange looks from parents when I say that we do not force our daughter to go to camp, and that we don't always take advantages of Summer opportunities, especially Summer reading, and here is why.
1. Summer reading is a system where children are rewarded for the number of books they can read by the end of the break. They are promised tickets to a Braves game or a Certificate or maybe a free coupon for pizza. Some kind of reward, for the number of books that they can "read" throughout the Summer. The problem with this is, I do not want my child learning that reading is a "job" that is to be rewarded. I don't want her receiving the message that reading is something that we don't do for pleasure, rather something we have to do, so we must provide a reason for someone to want to do it.
2. When your goal is to read 50 books at the end of 10 weeks, you may reach that, but are you really comprehending what you read? For older children at our library, the goal is 25 or more chapter books for the second category. And 50 or more for the first. Chapter books? That's 2-1/2 to 5 per week. I'll admit, there are some ferocious speed readers out there, but far to many kids are not.
3. My third reason is I would rather my child spend her Summer days lounging about on the trampoline or exploring the woods for an unknown species of spiders, or drawing a map to where there could possibly be dinosaur fossils in the backyard than worrying about "work." Winter is for reading. Don't get me wrong, we still do lots of reading in the Summer, at nightfall when we sit on the trampoline and watch fireflies pass fly all around us. Or even on a rainy day. And we still take plenty of trips to the library, providing numerous opportunities to check out 50 books or more on whatever the topic of interest may be. (This time it was Gymnastics, Backpacking, and Pirates.) But I am less concerned with their ability to speed read the books than her excitement about exploring each page, look at each picture, and take in everything they read.
Many people believe that we are denying our child some of the "simple joys" of childhood, but in fact, we are just providing her different joys. S has no interest in the Summer Program because it is never something that was made a big deal to her, and as she herself states, "I'd rather read E.B. White books, but I can't read those fast."
During Summer we still have lots of childhood fun. We camp and learn about nature. We go to the beach and learn how to swim and build giant sand castles. We explore outside together with just a pair of binoculars or maybe a magnifying glass. We lay inside when it is raining and draw pictures or research something new. How It's Made is one of our favorites. Sometimes we may even go out in the rain in jump in giant puddles, a childhood classic. Our Summers are packed to, just in a very different way. :)