Should You Force Your Child to Read Over the Summer?
By Camille Di Maio
When I was in school, I traveled extensively. From the English countryside to the tunnels of the Opera Garnier in Paris, from urban Iran to cattle land in Australia. It wasn't all across oceans. Sometimes I spent quiet time making currant wine with Marilla in Avonlea or corn husking dolls with Laura in Wisconsin. I saw the inside of a KGB charm school in Russia, and fought Rodents of Unusual Size with Wesley and Buttercup.
I did so with the help of magic - our turquoise linen couch with a dizzying floral pattern and a flashlight if my escapades took me into the night. There was no incantation, just the gentle crack of newly opened binding or the delicious musty scent of a novel found in the pile at a thrift store. That was the spell - a newly acquired book.
My childhood was one of extremes. My father worked in sales, on commission, and during the good years, we really did cross oceans. In the bad years, we hunted Goodwill racks for things that fit or could fit by rolling them up. But I was equally comfortable in either place - the good or the bad - because books were my constant companion.
The years have passed with speed, and I find myself with four children - the oldest of which is entering high school, and the youngest who is not nearly finished with potty training.
Regardless of age, there is a nagging question that well-intentioned parents debate: Should I require my children to read during the summer?
Should I introduce them to other worlds, other times, other cultures? After an intense school year full of dark mornings and alarm clocks; afternoons with hours of homework and activities shouldn't I let their brains take a break for three months?