As important as summer is for filling in the gaps in math and writing perpetrated by my children’s school (especially starting in fourth grade), my instinct tells me the most important thing I can do for them this summer is to protect a significant amount of their reading time.
My kids’ generation is the first in our family to have opportunities for organized summer activities. I was lucky to grow up in kid-friendly neighborhoods with sidewalks for skating and safe streets for biking. But with a lot of us to help through college, my parents couldn’t afford swim memberships and day camps. We were at home a lot, and Northern Virginia summers were brutal for playing outdoors for much of the summer.
So, while my friends and I usually spent a few hours a day playing in one another’s basements where it was cool, there were still many hours to fill. Many of them were filled with books.
Even if I wasn’t as ambitious as LA Times critic David Ulin in my summer reading choices (Wow! Vonnegut after fifth grade!), I usually read pretty good books: Across Five Aprils; Rascal; The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Reading fine writing during those elementary school summers fed my ambition to take on higher level books. My scrounging around for something to read often led me to my older brothers’ bookshelves too.
As for my own reading this summer, I’ll be reading Ulin’s The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter.