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The Challenge of Summer Reading

I just finished ordering my kids’ summer reading lists online and my 15-year-old is already halfway through George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Now what? When do we get to have fun?

I spent page-turning summers as a kid discovering great books (The Chronicles of Narnia, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, Bridge to Terabithia, The Killer Angels.) As an adult, two of my favorite books – In Cold Blood and The Son – were unexpected killer beach reads. I’m looking for another shoreline page-turner this year. More importantly, I’m looking for books that my kids will want to pick up – not because it’s required, but because they want to read for the pure joy of it.

I’m not sure that’s possible anymore.

Our view of reading as a summer pastime has shrunk so much that only 17 percent of parents recently said reading is a top priority this summer, according to a survey by Reading is Fundamental and Macy’s. A separate report from Common Sense Media found that only about a third of 13-year-olds report reading for pleasure less than twice a year. 

This is happening despite the fact that children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers. Last year, an Institute of Education study – believed to be the first to examine the effect of reading for pleasure on cognitive development over time – found that children who read for pleasure made more progress in math, vocabulary and spelling between the ages of 10 and 16 than those who rarely read.

Ready to crack a good book open, kids? 

Because sometimes it takes a little competitive spirit to get pages turning, here are some summer reading challenges for motivation.