Summer Reading Program

Updated on July 09, 2009
D.M. asks from Dallas, GA
8 answers

HI Moms!
I have an 8 year old son who is frustrated with having to Read his summer reading books. He has read 1 out of 3. I don't blame him for having to read a book he is not interested in. (He likes to read, books of his choice, on his own time.) The first book he read & I read a couple of chapters to him. I don't mind reading to him; however, he seems to either dose off or his mind will wander. He was able to complete & in fact ended up enjoying the first book after his dad gave him an incentive. So, I am doing the same with the other 2 books (incentive). He asked me for 2 inexpensive toys he wants & as a reward I told him after he reads the 2nd book we would purchase the one and once he completes the 3rd (e-book & quiz), we would purchase the other. Today, he asked me where the the 2nd book was & i can tell with his demeanor he did not want to read the book. I just told him not to read right at this moment only b/c I knew if he is reading while frustrated he would not comprehend anything he reads & begin to cry & get angry. I set a designated time in the morning for him to read b/c if we wait until bedtime, he falls asleep. I, too, am not crazy aboout having children read a "suggested" reading book over the summer, b/c I feel it forces them to not like reading at all. Anyway, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

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answers from Atlanta on

Well, while I think 8 may be a little young to force kids to read something, he is going to have to read books he doesn't really want to throughout his school career. The idea behind summer reading lists is to hopefully get some kids and parents into the idea of kids reading who normally wouldn't, and to open up their minds to different kinds of books they wouldn't normally choose to read. He may find he loves some of those books!

Anyway, maybe a good idea would be to offer to buy him a book he really would like to read after every reading list book he completes!

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answers from Atlanta on

Rather than reward behavior that is expected, help him to understand the result should he not read the books (passing vs failing in school) and why the result matters to you, and should matter to him.

Promote reading by continuing your scheduled time, but also find ways to make it fun.

What are the books? What's there subject matter?

Given I don't know what the books are, it's hard for me to make relevant suggestions, but mimic the book, theme, character in play - find local field trips, cook meals, and create activities to support the book, its theme, the main character, the author, etc.

Show him that learning can be fun, and THAT is his reward.

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answers from Atlanta on

Honestly, I wouldn't make him do it. Encourage him to read lots of books that he chose, rather than the ones he has no interest in. Forcing him to read books he doesn't like could cause him to not like reading anything. Keep a list of all the books he reads and if anything is said when school starts back you can say "Sorry, he really wasn't into those books and I thought if I pushed it he would end up hating reading, so instead he read..." By the way. I have a MA in Education and have taught for 8 years if that lends any weight to my opinion:) Good luck!



answers from Atlanta on

It sounds to me like you already know the answer, but you're looking to see if other people think the same way you do. A number of distinguished authors on the subject of children's reading HIGHLY recommend what you seem to be feeling in your gut. (and me and Dawn T. for what it's worth.)
I have so many questions I want to ask you. Did they give him a big list and he had to choose 3 from it or is it 3 required books? Or is it simply "suggested reading"? I think some schools do that just as a starting point for folks who don't know where to start. Does he normally enjoy reading for pleasure? Does he have any problems with reading or is he a little behind? How do they know if he really does read the books - do they test him, or do they just ask him? What happens if he doesn't read them? What if he ends up reading a lot more books, but different ones that he has chosen? What *are* these books that the school thinks rank so highly anyway? (When I look at lists of classic and award-winning children's literature, I RARELY see any of the required reading I was assigned in school, but I see a LOT of the books that I had at home. Although I don't remember how much of that was selected by my mom or how much I just gravitated to because it was displayed front cover facing out at the bookstore.) What do *you* think of the selections? Do you think you could select books that better match his interests? (I'm sorry - this is just a subject that REALLY interests me - we're addicted to books. )

I couldn't agree more with Dawn T. If your kid reads through the required books, but starts hating to read, won't you be worse off by the end of the summer? Rewards and incentives often have the opposite effect - reading becomes a chore he has to do to get the reward, instead of just reading for pleasure. (Which is why many parents HATE those book-reading contests for pizza. The kid goes into a bookstore and says "I need a book!" The salesperson asks "What are you interested in?" "I don't care - it just has to be 100 pages to count." Salesperson (or librarian, or book lover) cringes.)

It's just simple human nature to not enjoy something as much if you *have* to do it. It's even been proven that kids who are assigned to read Mark Twain in school don't enjoy it as much as the kids who just happened to read it because it was sitting on their bookshelf one day when they were bored. (Can't remember if it was Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn, but it was the *same* book, with vastly different levels of appreciation.)

And when you look at "Summer Reading" suggested for adults, it's usually the more laid-back, humorous or even "guilty pleasure" reading that you do at the pool or the beach. You can't read "War and Peace" at the beach! 10 months out of 12, the teacher gets to dictate what he HAS to read - it isn't too unreasonable to let him persue his own reading interests from June to July, is it? (In this case, just the last few weeks of summer.)

PLENTY of people who research cognitive development and how kids learn and develop HIGHLY recommend letting the kids read what interests them, and just letting them choose whatever. (OK, not Playboy magazine). Kids often start off getting something you're not crazy about (skateboarding magazines, or Captain Underpants), but once they see you're not uptight about it, not cringing or rolling your eyes or making them follow up with something YOU choose, they start to develop more sophisticated tastes naturally, even if it's not as quickly as you'd like. (Obviously, you can buy something and keep it available on a table or in the car or hand it to him when he's bored.)

If it *is* required, can you email the teacher over the summer? Do you really think that if you told the teacher that he was getting frustrated and angry and crying so you took him to the library/bookstore and let him picked what he liked, would the teacher actually have a PROBLEM with that? Really? (I shudder to think.) But even if you think he/she would, you can completely justify doing exactly this by quoting Jim Trelease, Mem Fox, or Esme Raji Codell, who have all written books on the subject of children and reading. Especially if you can't reach the teacher over the summer!

If so, there's plenty of research showing that the most avid readers are the kids who get to choose what interests them. (And - you know - the obvious stuff, like having all kinds of books around the house, frequently visit the library and let them check out as many books as they can carry, and maybe not have the TV on constantly in the background.)

Try this experiment:
Create a cozy reading nook for him with a good squashy chair and good reading light, not too bright. Go to a bookstore alone and find a book you think he would just LOVE - something that really interests him or will make him laugh out loud, and just leave it on his bed as a gift and see if he "takes the bait."

Then sit down with him and look at the "Book a Day" blog on the Planet Esme website. If you can't find something that interests him there, then I will eat my hat. ( has lots of lists made up by customers on any subject you can imagine.)

Make him a deal: he doesn't have to read anything else off the summer reading list if you can go to the library a couple of times and max out his library card. (Don't forget the audiobooks for the car.) And NEVER take a hungry kid to the library.

I sound like such an opinionated know-it-all - I apologize. And I've practically written a novel right here, and put you to sleep. It's just that I'm kinda going through a similar thing right now and it's on my mind so much.

(I'd love to know how it works out, if you don't mind responding with a private message.)



answers from Atlanta on

I think that this type of reading program kind of indoctrinates them into the idea of having to read assigned books. Even up through college he will have to read books he would not ordinarily choose. This is just the beginning, and has the potential of opening up a whole new world to him. There have been many times when I have had to read a book that ordinarily I wouldn't have chosen, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. If you choose a set reading time each day, it will just become a habit for him to do it. If he senses reluctance on your part, he will use that to try to get out of it. Good Luck!!



answers from Spartanburg on

I am sorry this is late...I am on vacation and am just catching up. I do not understand why an eight year old child needs to read ANYTHING over the summer that he does not want to read.

My husband and I have four children, ages 13, 11, 7 and 2. I do not make them read if they are not interested in it. When school is on, and now, for the 13 year old who is in advanced classes they have to read the required stuff. Eight seems young for required summer reading and I think that it will indeed lead to them hating to read.

In particular, our school system has reading with associated tests that I feel are too restrictive. They only have a certain number of library books available and only a certain number of tests for the books they supply.

My 13 year old son NEVER wanted to read those books that the library had and then take the stupid tests for added incentives and bribes given by the school...but he would read Sports Illustrated and ANYTHING at all about sports or the Old West. I think you have to find what he enjoys and let him read about that. Heaven knows, there are enough things written. The books are there about whatever he likes and reading is the important part.

You have to be able to let him off the hook at this age and let him read what he wants; not what they would like for him to read. Reading is the only skill I ever learned that I use all of the time. I am glad that I like it!!

That thirteen year old and his eleven year old sister are in advanced classes and do AMAZING in school. I do not know if you have heard of this program, but he took the SAT's in SEVENTH grade and qualified for state recognition from DUKE University for his ENGLISH letting him read what he likes apparently worked for him!!



answers from Macon on

Sounds like your 8 year old has your number. He should read in the morning after breakfast. BEFORE he plays, watches tv, or anything else. Tell him if he wants to play, read a book. REQUIRED. Don't let him play you.



answers from Atlanta on

I think you're doing a good job giving him a designated time of day to read and the incentive thing is a great idea. You may need to bump up the pace -- summer's half over and he has only one third of his reading done.

Since this is the way it is and nothing's going to change it, make the best of it. Don't even think about that you don't like it -- in fact, change your own attitude about it -- it might help him to change his. Talk about how fun reading is. Be a reader. Read in front of your kids so they see it as something people do (for enjoyment) -- not just a chore kids have to do.

Reading is fun! Studies show that kids who read more (of their choosing) do better in school. Perhaps have a designated reading time for the whole family when everyone is quiet and reads (or colors for the younger ones). Just instill the idea that reading is GOOD!

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