Wednesday’s Parent: 6 unexpected bonuses from summer reading

Fill your plate with reading. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Fill your plate with reading. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Childhood is not what it used to be. Our kids are over scheduled and technologically driven. Even summers are no longer filled with cloud watching, daydreaming and nothing to do. Downtime has been replaced with videos, gaming and social media. However, parents may share some good old fashioned reading habits that lead to some surprising results.

In a busy life, reading slows the pace. It is an introspective solitary experience that prepares children with knowledge, provokes thought, and inspires learning. The casual summer reader sharpens decision-making abilities by choosing the subject matter. He manages time by carving out a daily piece to read. She organizes her space for reading comfort. All of these are necessary skills for the college-bound.

Your child may be holding an e-reader instead of paper as the reading material but that’s not the point. Once the words are consumed, the plate they are served from doesn’t matter. It’s still food for thought.

Based on your child’s personality and interest, here are six ways parents may encourage summer reading and find these unexpected bonuses:

For those who resist sitting still, read to create. How-to books are perfect for active would be scientists, engineers and artists. Teens may select an area of interest and try it out with a special project or experiment. If the subject will be studied in school, students may have a leg up on the work load. If it is purely an extracurricular activity, teens may have something special to add to their college application activities and honors list.

For the go-getter, get a jump start on college essay writing. With more schools going standardized test optional, essays grow in importance during the admission process. Reading the work of great writers exposes teens to clear examples of how to craft an audience-grabbing opening line and an audience-retaining gripping paragraph. It also shows writing styles vary and it is up to the author how to best express her point.

For the quiet one, form a family book club. Libraries and social groups have them so why not a family? It gives parents and children a chance to calmly converse on a higher level as a team. Depending on the topic, it may become a broader opportunity for teens to share their developing opinions on social, political and financial issues as they grow toward their own independence. It’s a great way for families to prepare for the shift from a parent-child relationship to a parent-adult child relationship.

For the inner chef, read to cook. Many cookbooks offer more than recipes. Some provide interesting details about ingredients and fun facts about the origin of dishes. The whole family will benefit from a meal while the teen learns life skills about nutrition and meal preparation. This is good practice to avoid the dreaded Freshmen !5 weight gain that plague many new college students.

For the history buff, read about the past. Go beyond textbooks and find books authored by historical figures or about a specific era. Or delve into the pages of an historical novel. Both fiction and nonfiction book lovers can find love and war stories, inventions, poetry, thought processes and bygone life styles. When classes resume, teens may have a keener insight into the subject matter.

For the adventurous, read for travel. If your family is planning a vacation or collegecation (college visit + family vacay), why not have your interested teen help plan by learning about the attractions, events and must see and do sights. Teens curious about going away to college may also learn about what makes a particular school and their surrounding community special, different and worth further research on a college list. If a teen is thinking about enrolling in a study abroad program, reading about another country will help make this decision.

There is a physical or virtual book, periodical, newspaper or article to suit every genre and some will cross over. For example, readers of  a mystery novel set in 19th century London may be challenged to figure out the puzzle while picking up some historical tidbits about a foreign country. Something from the craft section may spur entrepreneurial talents leading to creation of a new business.

Reading may also change moods with laughter and attitudes with empathy. Parents may help their children experience the joys of summer reading today for a lifetime of learning in school and beyond.

Read Suzanne’s post: Encourage Summer Reading.


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

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