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How Just Four Books Make A Big Difference in Learning

This mom thinks reading is bridge enough for summer learning.

School’s going to be out for summer soon. My kids will be packing away the backpacks and sleeping in late but, with apologies to Alice Cooper, they will still be hitting the books.

The slides at aren’t the only ones our kids experience during summer breaks. Two months without schooling leads to the “Summer Slide,” the phenomenon that sees our children losing academic ground over the summer.  In the fall, teachers spend as much as a month getting students back up to speed.

In the recent past, I’ve attempted to stop the slide with my own kids by using a variety of techniques, from activity books to curricula of my own making. I was generally successful in the beginning of the summer and generally with my daughter, who loves to play school. My son resisted any and all attempts to prevent his educational achievements from sliding into oblivion. Naturally, he’s the one who most needs to keep his learning engine roaring.

Last year, things changed. I read in Instructor magazine that reading just four books will keep a child from suffering the summer slide. My daughter was on board with the “read four books this summer” plan right away. My son? Not so much. He pointed out that his sister’s books tend to be rather short, generously illustrated and littered with fairies. Since the first book I selected for him was The Book Thief, I could understand him thinking the plan wasn’t quite fair. So, I let him pick his own books—they couldn’t be graphic novels—and I paid him. I even let him count an entire issue of Rolling Stone as a book. At five dollars per book, he earned $20.

My daughter definitely benefitted from our summer reading program. It’s harder to judge my son’s academic performance because his ADHD complicates the picture. I was happy he spent a good deal less time in front of screens; he was happy to get paid to read.

We’re doing our Four Book reading club again this year. My son will likely start with Furies of Calderon, the first in the Codex Alera series of fantasy novels by Jim Butcher. There are six novels in the series. I’m hoping he loves them enough to earn $30 in the first month of break.

My daughter needs no financial incentive to read but hasn’t chosen a first book yet, so we’ll see what the local librarians have to recommend. Naperville’s librarians are terrific at helping children find that next great read. We’ve even had them searching through the newly returned books for one particular book my daughter just had to read.  And what will I be reading? I’m thinking a fantasy, maybe something littered with fairies.

Need book recommendations? The Naperville Public Library has an excellent summer reading program. On the Internet, About.com has a wealth of ideas for summer reading.

Naperville Public Library May 29, 2012 at 09:41 PM
Janice, Thanks so much for the shout out for our Summer Reading Program. It's an all ages reading program so I'd like to challenge you to be a part of it, too! While we can't pay you to read this summer, we do offer coupons! Think about signing up starting on June 4. I think you can match your son's 4 books! Susan Greenwood Naperville Public Library
Janice Lindegard May 29, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Oh, Susan! My son makes fun of how much I read. I can match his four in about 12 days. He has an impersonation of me that I'd have to show you in person. Maybe when I come in to sign up!

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