In Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcom Gladwell turns basic assumptions upside down. For example, we assume that most learning for children takes place during the school year. We believe that year-end test scores are the fruits of this school year learning. But Gladwell cites a study suggesting this isn’t true. Instead, he claims student success is influenced more by how children spend their hours outside the classroom.
Talk about pressure. Since reading that chapter I cringe when my daughters log on to Webkinz or watch a Barbie movie for the third time (that day.) With summer just weeks away, I need to take a proactive approach to creating productive time off. And when I say “productive” I am not being a fun sucker. Summer learning can be a synonym for fun. I’ve found that children flock to the path of least resistance. If we put fun learning activities in their summer path, they will readily spend afternoons building their brain power instead of buying food and furniture for their online pet.
One important summer focus is reading. Why not make it a goal to have our children return to school scoring higher on their grade level reading tests than when they left? Here are a few suggestions to make this happen:
- Sign up for summer reading incentive programs. There are lots of them. We start with our local library. Once they’ve finished that, we sign up at Barnes and Noble. Take advantage of as many as you can find. Most of the time, children score lower on their reading tests after summer break simply because they lose the daily reading routine. Keep the routine. Use all available incentive programs to pick up where the classroom leaves off.
- Carry books with you. I read Twilight (before my daughter’s sixth grade friends liked it too) standing in line for my kids at Lagoon. Soon my children followed suit and started stuffing their books into my purse. Not only are my arms stronger, but we read together while we wait (for anything.)
- Start a summer family book club. Arizona Mama Rajean Roberts gave me this idea. We’ve read Harry Potter and lately the Benedict Society together, but I’ve never thought of “formalizing” it into a family book club.
- Organize picture book play dates. This summer some friends and I are going to take turning hosting summer picture book activities. The only requirements are to read the children a favorite picture book and plan one or two extension activities to go with it. (I’m leaning towards reading Princess and the Pea and then gathering up twenty seven pillows and a few green pea marbles for play.) I’ve also organized summer book clubs for my older children too. These work best when I provide the snacks and stay out of the way while they choose the books and set their own plans.
- Pair regular library visits with picnic and park visits. Tote the library bag, full of fresh books, outside with you–and eat them right away.
With all these book activities strewn in their path, the Webkinz may die of starvation and we may forget a few words to the Barbie movie. But hopefully, they’ll be too busy to notice.
Next time: Making the Most of Summer Computer Time.