Head of School Blog: On Summer Reading

Matt Green
It may not surprise you to learn that as a child, I was quite dutiful. When the various authority figures in my life, parents, bosses, and of course teachers, issued directives, I was diligent and timely in my response. This tendency extended to the sometimes onerous task of summer reading. 

At the time, it was not uncommon for teachers to assign as many as six dusty relics from another age; beach reads these were not. Always eager to please and with the best of intentions, I can proudly state today, that I started every one of those books.
Since you are undoubtedly a careful reader yourself, you probably noted my verb choice. Yes, I started but alas rarely finished my summer reading. Or if I did, I would employ a “speed reading” technique that you too may have utilized: first chapter, first paragraph of each subsequent chapter, first and last sentences of paragraphs, perhaps the dialogue and then the final chapter.

Having vowed to recommit myself to the important and often elevating hobby of reading for pleasure, I was intrigued to come across a recent article in The Washington Post entitled, “Yes, parents, there is a magic formula to keep your kids reading through the summer,” wherein Karen MacPherson cites research that suggests the percentage of adolescents who “read no books” over the summer is on the rise even as other research suggests that summer reading helps kids minimize the drop-off in reading skills that she refers to as the “summer slide.” She suggests that the secret ingredient for changing this pattern is rather simple; it’s you. Or, since I am a parent myself, it's us.

Among the suggestions she offers are:

  • Letting kids choose their own books-you’ll note plenty of choice in our required summer reading list.
  • Expanding the definition of reading by including accessible formats such as audiobooks and e-readers and non-traditional material such as graphic novels or e-zines.
  • Making reading a family priority-do you designate time for reading and if so, do your kids see you reading?
  • Making reading a social activity-have you/are you reading something they are reading? Shared an audiobook on a road trip? Perhaps there’s a title on our reading list that you might wish to read too?
On the topic of role modeling, it may reinforce the importance of reading for your kids to know that we have summer reading too!

Teachers are choosing between two articles selected by our faculty Diversity Committee. Many will then select two of the following three topics; executive function, introverts, and school models from around the world and read/view a collection of articles and videos on these topics. Others may opt to listen to a series of episodes from an educational podcast called “The Cult of Pedagogy.” And for those who just cannot get enough, they may choose to read one or both of the following titles: Michael Borba’s Unselfie: Why Empathetic Students Succeed in Our All-About-Me World or David Epstein’s Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World for an optional faculty book club in the fall.

I suppose it could be argued that as screen time has increased, we are spending more time reading text than ever before. And while it’s true that there is some very good content available at the tap of a button, perhaps summer also affords us an opportunity to commit to a proper and substantial book.

Happy middle-of-the-summer all. Time for me to get back to my reading.

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