Q: How can we as parents and educators ensure that our children continue to use their brains over the summer, but do not regard the reading and math that they do as “work?” How can we teach our children that learning can and should take place outside of the classroom in addition to in the classroom?
- Choice: Usually in school, children are forced to read the books that their teachers assign, whether the subject appeals to them or not. Denise Pope, a co-founder of Challenge Success, a research and student intervention project, explains that motivation plays a central role in engagement with learning and, subsequently, student achievement. If students are given choice and voice in the learning process, for example, they are more likely to want to learn the material and more likely to retain it. Therefore, allow your child to choose his own reading material over the summer – and offer a wide selection so that he can find books to his liking. Give your child plenty of choices when it comes to topics to read about – but don’t assume that you know what she is interested in reading. Elementary-aged children jump from one interest to another with lightning speed.
- Goals. In order to keep her motivated, give her a target number of books she should read. For instance, she should read five books over the summer to maintain any progress she made in reading during the school year. Work on getting her to read twenty minutes each day, steadily increasing to thirty minutes by the end of the summer. This reading time can be done after “bedtime” when your child would normally be asleep, making her feel like reading is a special privilege.
- Involvement with others: Everything is more enjoyable when you do it with someone else – learning included. Adults have book clubs to discuss literature and learn Torah with chavrusas. Reading often seems like a solitary experience, but it need not be that way. There are many ways to guarantee that reading can be a shared experience: read with your child, set up a literary café with her peers (complete with book-hemed foods), and find reading opportunities around you on the street.
- Switch off. If she has required summer reading, be sure to balance the books she is interested in with the reading list books. Have them both on hand so that she can switch between them when she gets frustrated by her required reading.