Column: Summer changes your schedule, not your goals

Calendar-wise, mid July signals the half-way point of the month. However, if you’re a student, it is also the mile marker for the half-way point of the summer. These summer months are important for student learning and engagement. Many times, I heard my mother say, “Summertime changes your schedule – not your goals.” She was a firm believer in reading as a year-round activity.

Ed Saxton
Ed Saxton

When summer brings rain, opportunities to encourage reading for fun are abundant. One of the more challenging tasks is to avoid the all-or-nothing pattern. Busy students and families generally have more timelines and structure during the school year. It is not that students do less in the summer; on the contrary, they often do more. The additional eight hours a day are swallowed up in a flurry of activity. The trick is in the scheduling.

The list of summer activities truly is endless and unique to each family; not only to families, but to each individual. A vacation may be planned – or in my family’s case, summer projects. We really never were able to “go out of town,” but there were plenty of projects to complete. This may have been the point of my mother’s statement about schedules and goals.

If reading is a positive part of each day, students will look forward to the time set for that purpose. While students often place school-year reading in the evenings and on weekends, summer-time reading allows for a bit more flexibility. In the nutritional world, we hear about MDR, as in minimum daily requirement. When promoting literacy, we might change that to MDRR – minimum daily reading requirement.

As families deal with the scheduling challenges of summer, they may set a goal of minutes per day. Knowing goals need to be measurable, the daily “requirement” gives all readers, any age, an actionable target. Working together to promote reading is an excellent goal, but being just a bit more structured with the number of minutes encourages readers to strive for, meet and at times, exceed the goal at hand.

Here are some ideas that may help promote summer reading. In our school district, elementary students are mailed a postcard reminder to read during the summer. Students who read and record their efforts on the card are rewarded with a free book in the fall. This allows students to earn books as they continue to build their reading skills.

After earning a book, students could read it, write a comment or two inside the cover and give it to a friend to read. The book could travel within the network of students and perhaps be returned to the original owner before the end of the school year. It might make for some interesting reading the following summer. It sounds like a logistical nightmare, but if this idea could be shared with students, chances are they would figure it out.

Just an idea to think about: people enjoy listening to someone else read. Remember reading to young children? They may have a favorite book that you can read in your sleep – and perhaps you have read it in your sleep. Have you ever tried to shorten a book by changing what is written to speed it up? Good luck with that idea if it is someone’s favorite book. Ever read to a middle or high school student? This would present an avenue for discussion. It is not uncommon for an adult to say, “Hey. Listen to this … “ We use the written word to generate interactions daily. It has always been a good idea to model, foster and promote reading.

A worthwhile activity may be to set an minimum daily reading requirement goal, schedule it into the changing summer schedule, and be reminded: “Summertime changes your schedule – not your goals.” Thanks, mom.

Ed Saxton is the superintendent of the St. Francis School District.

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