Friday, July 15, 2016

Summer Reading

The title words posted at the top of this post probably bring to mind a very specific mental image, one most people kind of enjoy. You know, a bathing suit clad you or me – or, well, a fictitious mental avatar that has my face, but one instead mounted atop an oddly mismatched Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson body rather than the truer-to-life Cheers! bar regular-style physique I rock day-to-day – lounging on a beach or beside a pool, with a toe in the water and a well-worn paperback in my, or your, shiny, SPF-70 coated mitts.

I mean, who doesn’t love that kind of summer reading?

Yeah, well. Kids, apparently.

Not all kids, mind you. I’m sure the world is full of youngsters voraciously consuming pulp adventure, or heck, maybe even a few gothic classics, in the sweet glut of responsibility-free hours that pile up during the days from June to August and comprise their break between grades. It just seems like those kids are getting harder and harder to come by. Nowadays, see, with dedicated year-round sports and 24/7 internet access and video games and Netflix and Youtube and, well, a culture that spits forth entertainment content for all ages like a time-consuming tsunami, it’s almost like kids have to try to be bored anymore.

And, I don’t know about you, but boredom was what usually sparked my interest in hunting down books when I was younger.

Sure, I want to go all Real Housewives of the Library of Congress and be all, “Back in my day, you picked up The Chronicles of Prydain in the middle of July, when the sun was too bright, and the mercury just had to be triple digits and the air was almost solid with humidity, and you devoured that book with relish while draped across a cool tile floor. And when it was done, you then went looking for the next one without so much as missing a beat.” The fact is, though, I also spent a good portion of the summer between 5th and 6th grade watching old Batman reruns I could barely make out of snowy UHF static. So there’s precious little doubt that if 10 year-old me had had the entirety of Netflix and Hulu and YouTube at his fingertips, he never would have learned the name Lloyd Alexander, or Tanis Half-Elven, or a million other names that ultimately became part of who I grew up to be.

Are you stuck in my boat? If you know or parent MG-aged kids, do they just happily read of their own accord during summer break, or do you have take away everything with a glowing screen and threaten them with month long, electricity-free paleo-summer camp to cajole them into cracking the spine of a book between during their long break between grades? Do you join book programs from the bookstore and library? Resort to bribery, perhaps? Have you found yourself promising the kids an extra Pokémon Go walk through the neighbor for every chapter the read? Or do you go straight to the Benjamins* to encourage kids to do more be reading and hopefully less vegetating while they wait for the dread Back to School sales?

What tricks do you have up your sleeves to help keep your maybe less than literary kids MIddle Grade Minded during the long hot summer?


*That is, cash money


WendyMcLeodMacKnight said...

This made me laugh out loud! It is a real conundrum, isn't it? When my kids were that age, I had no issues, because it was the height of the Harry Potter mania. However, one thing I did try and do was take them to the library every 10 days and when we actually went away, let them each buy a book to take with them (or two or three). And I am all for bribery if it involves reading, since, in my experience, one book begats another!

Shari Green said...

Wendy, Harry Potter definitely helped contribute to the summer reading frenzy at my house, too. ;) Really, though, I've been lucky because all my kids read a lot in the summers (and the rest of the year, especially if it prolonged bedtime).

Trips to the bookstore were always a treat -- maybe the kids picked up from me that buying a new book was a "special treat" (except that it happened pretty frequently, lol). I tried to never question what they picked for themselves, either -- whether it was an Archie comic or a 900-page fantasy novel that may have been slightly inappropriate. If they picked it, they'd read it. We always did a big stock-up at the library and at used bookstores before camping, too (camping to our family requires little more than tent, lawn chairs, & a giant stack of books).

I think getting away from screens is probably key these days, especially for kids who aren't naturally big readers -- interrupting screen-habits by doing outdoor stuff, day trips, etc., so they don't fall into screen-zombie mode -- and also semantics: they GET to read rather than HAVE to's a reward, not a chore.

I think being a reader myself, always having a book on the go, always being excited to get back to my book...I like to think that influenced my kids to become readers too. But who knows?! I guess we all have to figure out what works best with our own kids. :)