School has been out here for three weeks now and while that feels like a solid chunk of time, I don't know that we've really hit our summer stride just yet. But we're getting there.
We made it clear to our daughter that we expected her to read a decent amount over the summer. And looking back on the past three weeks, I've done a few things wrong and one thing right when it comes to encouraging my teen's summer reading.
Here are a few of my mistakes:
1. The book choice was mine.
The good folks at Scholastic have talked with me about summer reading over the years, and time and time again they emphasize letting kids pick their own books. For some reason, I decided to not follow that advice and I asked my daughter to please read a book on the book shelf that I got for her a few years ago, one I thought she would love.
She tried to read it a few summers ago and didn't get into it, but I thought perhaps now that she's well above that reading level that it would be an easy read, a way to gently ease into summer reading.
Wrong. Very, very wrong.
Turns out my daughter didn't like the book at all, but I was big on her finishing it. Our attempts to discuss it were less than fruitful.
2. I Nagged.
Just typing that made me cringe. No one likes nagging, but it somehow seems a necessary evil when it comes to teenagers who don't hear you the first few times you ask, and then forget what you said when they do hear it.
When it was clear that my 13-year-old wasn't loving the book she was reading, I could have thrown in the towel, let her off the hook, wave the white flag of parental surrender, but no. I decided to stick to my literary guns. Besides, it's important to finish what you start, right?
Turns out my kid is more in the camp of "life is too short to slog through books you don't like when they're not assigned for class."
But I insisted on a slog, and a slog I got. It wasn't fun for either of us.
3. I didn't do anything to make it fun.
I fully embrace the idea that my job as a parent does not mean making every moment of my daughter's life fun. And even if I did feel like that was my job, I'm pretty sure I would suck at it. But, there are situations when making activities fun for both of us can have pay big dividends. While I find reading fun, my daughter just doesn't love books like I do. Summer reading feels like one of those situations that can use a fun boost.
Putting the fun in summer reading changes as kids become teens. The library programs are seen as being more for little kids and the incentives that work in elementary school lose a bit of luster. That doesn't mean that it can't be fun at all, though.
Something as simple as suggesting that we share some ice cream after she finished the next chapter can make the experience more pleasurable (and provides a good opportunity for talking about the book). It's just that I didn't make that happen or come up with anything creative to make it fun.
Things have turned around in the past week, however.
Turns out that I'm at my best at encouraging my teen to read over the summer when I get out of the way.
She picked her next book, appropriately titled The Selection by the Kiera Cass.
It sounds a bit like Hunger Games meet The Bachelor meets a fairy tale - a book that may sound a little sudsy to me but is right up my daughter's literary alley. It's appealed to a lot of people, given that it topped the New York Times Best Seller list.
When I got out of the way and gave her the freedom to make her own choices with summer reading, she made a choice that aligns with what the Scholastic experts advise.
My daughter read it eagerly, and her excitement for the book was obvious. She was happy to talk about it, and did so with much more depth than she did the book that I had asked her to read.
The Selection is one in a series of five. The Scholastic experts also recommend finding a series that kids can stick with all summer long if they want. I showed her how to put a hold on books at the library from our computer at home, so we're for the long haul.
It is a popular read among her friends, so there's a built-in fun factor. (And yes, I know that's much more fun for a teen than ice cream with Mom.)
When I realized that it was late last night and my girl hadn't said good night, I went to check on her. She had fallen asleep reading.
You May Also Like: 11 ways to make summer reading fun and meaningful for kids
(Had I reread and followed this a few weeks ago, we would have gotten off to a much better summer reading start in our house)
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