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Lenore Skenazy
Lenore Skenazy
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How To Ruin a Kid's Summer

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Forget rain, mosquitoes and mice who get into the marshmallows. The fastest and most effective way to ruin this glorious season is to open up the packet marked "Summer Homework."

Oh, yes, teachers, I know; kids who don't do homework over the summer are apt to slide back, and then it is your job to push them back up to speed in the fall. To which Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, co-authors of the book "The Case Against Homework," have asked: "If those skills are so fragile, what kind of education are (kids) really getting?"

There's no doubt that a summer spent away from book reports and flashcards can result in some skills getting a little rusty. But what about the skills that get rusty during the school year? The skill of figuring out how to have fun when there's no teacher, coach or parent telling you what to do? The skill of drawing or making paper airplanes or (does anybody do this anymore?) whittling just for the heck of it? The skill of remembering how to enjoy life and not just fill in the bubbles on another worksheet? In fact, how about substituting REAL bubbles for worksheet bubbles for one sunny season?

Considering how far and fast my stomach plunges when anyone mentions the dreaded words "reading log" — a ledger of every book a child reads, along with the author's name, a question the child would "like" (ha!) to ask, and the number of pages read per night — I can think of no more effective way to turn kids off from reading forever than to make book logging mandatory during the summer.

Oh, wait! There IS one more way: Make kids stop every few pages to write a Post-it note about the book: "Harry is in danger.

I wonder whether Voldemort will win." That kind of thing. As if anyone in the grips of a great read EVER stopped to jot a Post-it note.

It's like scrapbooking during sex.

Not that I don't think kids should read during the summer. Of course they should! It's a question of how and why: For fun, in the shade? Or for school, at the table, with Post-it notes and reading log at hand?

A three-year study by University of Tennessee education professors Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen found that by giving kids a dozen books from a list of their OWN making — the kids' wish list, that is — children's reading scores went up as high as they would have if they had attended summer school. No muss, no fuss — no book reports necessary. Just a bunch of good books on the nightstand plus that other special summer ingredient: time.

So much of the school year is spent in frantic pursuit of test scores and grades. Summer, which already has shrunk to two months from the three months of my youth, is the hammock of the year. Kids deserve to climb in it with a book and read, sway, nap and, if they've got Post-it notes nearby, make mini paper airplanes.

Lenore Skenazy is the author of "Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry)" and "Who's the Blonde That Married What's-His-Name? The Ultimate Tip-of-the-Tongue Test of Everything You Know You Know — But Can't Remember Right Now." To find out more about Lenore Skenazy (lskenazy@yahoo.com) and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

1 Comments | Post Comment
Thanks for writing this. My son's reading list has been collecting dust all summer and I've been feeling a bit guilty. But at the end of the day his feet are black from running barefoot, his hair is matted with sweat, he's been playing and swimming and running free. His summer consists of making his own story rather than sitting and reading somebody else's.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Jean
Sun Aug 8, 2010 7:53 PM
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