For the first time in my parenting career, I was faced with the task of avoiding the dreaded “summer slide” for my rising second grader. A month into the summer, after a vacation in Los Angeles, his own 7th birthday party, July 4th, trips to the beach, and more birthday parties, I decided it was time.
I made him a reading clipboard, with his school reading log on it, and about 5 pages of suggested book titles. He dutifully highlighted books he thought he’d like. We went to the library every week, and I talked him into picking out 1 or 2 books at a time. I nagged. A lot. And I hated it. The nagging and the not reading and the crankiness.
Then I read this post from my favorite homeschooling blog, City Kids Homeschooling: Unschooling and the 3 Rs. And I realized… the more I asked, the more I nagged, the more I hounded and begged him to read, the chances of him ENJOYING reading would decrease exponentially.
Children are natural learners. Even 7-year-olds who act like tough guys. They have a curiosity about the world that we’ve left behind in favor of checking things off the list, getting the better grade, filling out the reading log. Parents can be overly focused on achievement, and so can our schools.
Why do we push our young children to complete activities for the sake of being finished with them, like Type A control freaks? Instead, we should be surrounding them with natural opportunities to learn. My son doesn’t care if he reads 40 books this summer or zero. He just wants to do fun things.
So I stopped talking about it. I brought home books from the library by the bagful, and I left them on his desk or in his room. Books about sharks, baseball, and dinosaurs. Books from his beloved Magic Tree House series, a graphic novel version of The Wizard of Oz, and picture books he could read to his little brother. I never mentioned them, I never demanded he read them. And HE FREAKIN’ READ EVERY ONE.
Not only that, but he was excited about what he read. He LEARNED things that he didn’t know before. Reading made him THINK.
And isn’t that the whole point of reading?