Question of the Week: Summer Reading


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The novel my teenage son was assigned to read this summer is sitting on the coffee table. Untouched.

It’s not even a big book–at only 208 pages, it’s short enough to zip through on a single rainy afternoon.

“It sure would be nice to have nothing to do but read all summer long,” I think to myself as I contemplate the laundry to be folded and the dinner to be cooked. But it’s a struggle to get my teenager to open a book.

I’ve been holding his internet access hostage each day until he completes his chores and reads for 30 minutes. This is my third teenager, and I know how the summer will end: with wailing and gnashing of teeth as the start of school looms large, but the book sits on the coffee table, the binding still uncracked. That’s no fun for anyone, so this time I’m being proactive.

How do you handle summer-reading assignments with your school-age children? Do you require them to read a little bit at a time, encourage them read at their own pace, or let them completely ignore the assignment until the weekend before school opens?

Please share your answers and experiences in the comment box below.

Copyright 2016 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS


About Author

Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom of 3 young adults, and a Secular Franciscan. She is managing editor for Today's Catholic Teacher magazine and editor at Barb enjoys writing, cooking, and reading, and is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count.


  1. My 8 year old son loves to read, and I do not participate in those summer programs that offer rewards for reading, as I want him to continue to view it as something that is its own reward. Even during the year when the school requires book logs, I fill them out myself because I don’t want him to think of reading as homework. His school does give a reading assignment each summer, though obviously it’s less of a time commitment than what your teenagers are doing. I pretty much ignore the reading assignment, becuase I do a ton of academics with my son over the summer as it is. He has ADHD, primarily inattentive type (as opposed to hyperactivity). His distractibility level borders on pathological, and combined with his slow processing time, the pace of a classroom is tricky for hi despite the fact that he is perfectly intelligent. Consequently, I have to work with him over the summer so that he returns to school in September without having lost the reading comprehension, math and writing skills that he acquired during the previous academic year. In addition to reading for fun (which we have a lot more time to do in the summer than during the school year), he will also be doing book reports and other reading comprehsion assignments, math equations to reinforce the areas he struggles with, and other writing assignments to reinforce his skills. I prefer to design a curriculum for him based on his areas of weakness rather than go along with the school-prescribed summer reading assignment. Every year I show them a folder’s worth of work which is just a fraction of what he has done over the summer, and they seem to accept that as a pretty fair trade rather than giving me a hard time about not doing their assignment.

    • Claire, you’re obviously showing the school only a small part of how your son isn’t slacking off in the summer. Kudos to you for finding a way to work with his needs and keep him engaged!

  2. This is a funny topic – both of my sons love to read, but both were always pretty fiercely independent in wanting to make their own choices. So we had that end of summer cramming reading at our home too. I will be interested in hearing what others say, but I think you’re definitely on the right track!

    • The high school is into this “One School, One Book” program. Teachers of every subject are expected to integrate something about the summer reading assignment in their classes. That’s a nice idea, but as a voracious reader and a former teacher, I’d much rather have the students be given a more open assignment than forcing teachers to plan some lesson somewhere that references a book that might have nothing to do with their subject matter.

      I think students will read more willingly and retain more material when the choice of the book is left to them. He has a huge book about Alexander Hamilton that he begged Hubs to purchase, and he’s reading that, and I guarantee he’ll know more about that content than he will about the required, shorter book.

      • Off topic, but have you guys listened to the Hamilton soundtrack yet? I haven’t seen the musical, but the soundtrack is amazing and might be a fun companion to his reading. Warning though… adult themes. But it’s a pretty fascinating musical experience.

        • He’s a theatre kid. Of COURSE he’s listened to Hamilton. He’s obsessed with it, as are all his theatre friends. He and Hubs listen to the music when they’re in the car, so we are aware of the adult content. (For me…too much rap. Not my taste.) Actually, the Hamilton musical is what sparked his interest in reading the giant book he bought, so that’s been a good side-effect. He’ll have US History 1 this year, so learning about Founding Fathers will definitely benefit his studies.

  3. Catherine Annulis on

    Summer homework was always the bain of our existence until the children’s school adopted a computer program for summer math and reading assignments. Now the children actually enjoy doing their summer homework and frequently do it without even being reminded. No more “last minute” cramming when August rolls around 😉

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