Making time in your summer schedule for reading

Spring is an exciting time of the year, but the ironic thing is: it’s gone. We approach our high school commencement for the class of 2012 and head directly into summer at an accelerated rate. Summer brings an incredible amount of opportunity for all families in Independent School District No15. Camps, Summer Springboard and countless opportunities can enrich the summer for St. Francis students. Please consider our summer programs as an option for summer learning.

Ed Saxton
Ed Saxton

With the regular school year closed, families alter their schedules and begin to enjoy summer. Hopefully, activities and academics continue to be an important part of the day-to-day routines for our students. The interesting thing about summer learning is the self-guided nature of the curriculum. Students and their parents can shape additional activities to fit their needs. While some will focus on academic enrichment, others may spend additional time trying to improve math and reading skills. Regardless of the path selected, it will open the door for some anywhere, anytime learning.

Even though we have become a society that values mobility, there continues to be a desire to hold on to traditional activities. It is not necessary to consider these as two conflicting concepts. In fact, being a mobile learner could enhance some of your traditional activities.

Reading, for example, can take place in multiple settings using a book, magazine or newspaper. Some families may own interactive devices that allow for access to the same material but in a much more compact and portable format. Either way, it is the willingness to make reading a priority that is important.

Families can enhance continuity of instruction by creating situations that foster thinking. As you plan activities, ask questions of your family members. Try to ask questions that require a thoughtful answer. My mother encouraged me to understand; learning how to ask questions is an important skill to develop and the desire to be a good listener is equally important.

It isn’t as easy to be a good listener when questions yield yes/no responses. On the other hand, asking more thought-provoking questions could yield more thoughtful responses.

Some simple questions:

Should we take a family vacation?

Why should families take a summer vacation?

What are three destinations in the state of Minnesota our family could visit?

We have seven days to use for this trip. How should we plan to use them?

Of course, countless scenarios exist for all of our families, but the premise is there. Investing time communicating with children is an excellent strategy for developing higher-level thinking skills. What can be equally satisfying is the cultivation of a solid relationship.

Please be sure to develop a plan you can monitor and adjust, if needed. For example, “We would like to read more this summer.” This is an OK concept, but it is difficult to measure. As a student, I know you want me to read, but the idea of “read more this summer” is difficult to measure.

In contrast, “We want you to read 30 minutes each day this summer. Here is a calendar for recording your time. You may read more than 30 minutes but not less. On Sunday nights, we want you to tell us about what you read during the week.”

Let’s examine example two:

It is measurable.

It has an upside potential for developing a family expectation and habit.

All family members (regardless of age) may participate. Parents model the behavior. Extended family members who live elsewhere may be included. It also has the ability to be carried over into the school year.

In example two, as the students become more accomplished readers, the Sunday conversation may include the update and an element of predicting. “Based on what you have read so far, what do you think will happen next?” Future questions might come back to, “Was your prediction accurate?”

This is a scheduled activity that can be easily measured. It allows for students, their siblings, parents and extended families to participate. It is not tied to any particular place, so it has no limits.

Please consider using the summer of 2012 as a pilot for this reading experiment. Look at it in the fall and adjust as needed. If we all made reading a priority for the next three months and beyond, our students and families would benefit. Sooner than you might think, it will be June 15, Fourth of July and back to school.

Sorry, but it is true; time can slip away in the blink of an eye. Considering this as a plan to start, it could lead to a comment down the road: “I remember the summer of 2012; that’s the year we started our family reading plan.”

Please have an enjoyable and productive summer. Thanks for reading.

Ed Saxton is the superintendent for the St. Francis Independent School District 15.

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