“Summer Reading” Is Not An Oxymoron

ProcrastinationAs summer vacation begins, so too does the back and forth negotiation to complete summer reading assignments.  Even for avid readers, summer reading assignments can sap the pleasure derived from reading. Both parents and teens know all the logical, rational reasons TO complete summer reading sooner rather than later, but there’s that part of the mind (everyone’s got one) that defies all logic.  Here’s a few tips to help complete the reading assigned:

  • Lower your expectations: I know.  How many times in your life do you hear an educator say those words?  Being realistic about when summer reading will start and be completed can reduce the pressure of the assignments and the tension between parent and teen.  Parents can expect summer reading to start as soon as the first week passes after school is out, reasoning, “If it’s out of the way, then the kid (and the parent) can relax the rest of the summer.”  The teen mindset can be more like, “I just completed 10 months of fire and brimstone-like academics and now, I’ve got to do more?!?  NO WAY. NO HOW.”   In my decades of experience advising teens and families, summer reading assignments more reasonably get started sometime in July, in the month or 2-3 weeks before school starts up again.
  • Create accountability with friends:  A shared group Facebook page, a Google Talk discussion board, Pinterest…be creative in developing book discussion groups amongst friends to keep you moving forward with summer reading, and discuss any questions or symbolism along the way.  The more engaged in the reading, the more interesting and less drudgery the assignment can become.  If anything, a group can be a place for shared commiseration about the injustices of a summer reading assignment.
  • Read for Pleasure: balance the summer reading assignment with a book, magazine, online website–anything with extended writing–of your choosing, then the stress of (possibly slogging through uninteresting assigned reads) may be more bearable.

Summer reading assignments may be an intrusion on summer fun, especially when teens want to be free from the structured school year and the focused mind energy required for a strong academic performance.  The fits and starts that accompany summer reading can be typical, and procrastination expected.  Be gentle.  Even incomplete assignments or last minute, late night reading can be lessons learned.

Photo credit: Science is Awesome