Shared Summer Reading

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Nancy Lotz

By Nancy Lotz
English Instructor

I spent this school year teaching Introduction to Literary Analysis to MMI eighth-graders. After careful reading, we talked and wrote about novels, a play, short stories, and poetry. I was astonished by the breadth and depth of our discussions. Completely unprepared for the idea that I would be learning from them, I happily found myself telling my students, again and again, “I’ve never thought of it that way!”

Now that the school year is over, I hope that you will look upon your child’s summer reading (both required and for pleasure) not as a chore, but as an opportunity to learn with and from your child.

For the first week or two after school is out, don’t talk about summer reading. Don’t even suggest that your son or daughter “find a book to read.” Allow your child some mindless time — you both deserve it. However, before you both become too enmeshed in the new summer schedule, make reading part of your summer routine.

The very best way to start your child reading this summer? Share. Read with him or her. Try reading aloud. This may seem ridiculous — even embarrassing — if you’ve never done it before, but I urge you to try it. You may be surprised by your child’s reaction. Although he won’t admit it, your child loves the familiar music of your voice. You speak to your son or daughter in a way that no one else can. Take turns reading, if you like. Revel in the sound of your child’s voice. Tell him or her so.

The best part: now you two have something specific to talk about. Shared reading (aloud or not) is an intimate experience, a sweet secret between the two of you — separate from the rest of the family. Take every chance you get to talk about what you read. Conduct your own analysis: Why did this character respond this way? How did that last chapter make you feel? How would you react in this situation? You will be amazed and thrilled at the observations your child makes when your conversation has nothing to do with washing the dishes or taking out the garbage.

Does this shared reading take time? Yes. Is it time well spent? Absolutely. Start small — perhaps just 30 minutes after dinner. As soon as you’re hooked (and you will be), the time will not be an issue.

I know that your teenager has many intriguing, thoughtful ideas to share about what he or she reads. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to learn from your child. Shared summer reading will be an unforgettable gift for both of you.

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