When I was a little girl, there was an ancient cherry tree at the corner of my block. Happily, the old lady who lived in the house by the tree told the children of the neighborhood that we could eat as many cherries as we wanted! So many summer mornings I would leave my house after my chores were done, and with a book tucked down my shirt, I climbed up into the tree to a particularly comfortable branch, and spend hours reading my book and eating cherries. Those are wonderful memories.
Do children today have similar experiences? I hope so. I think the thirst for stories (and cherries) hasn’t diminished very much as people move from technology to technology. The pleasure a person can find in the anticipation of a day spent in the clutches of a good book is surpassed only by actually getting lost in that book. Of course there is always the risk of reading so much that everything else is neglected. How well I remember lolling around reading on the couch downstairs (because my bedroom was so messy I didn’t want to read in there) and having my mother come in with her hands on her hips, saying, “Kathryn, get your nose out of your book and do something productive!”
Maybe part of childhood should include a significant amount of unstructured time when a person can read, or play outside, or explore nature. This is a little bit counter-intuitive, perhaps. Shouldn’t we give our children all the lessons and sports opportunities and structured learning experiences our wallets can manage? Maybe so, but possibly there can be a compromise that will allow kids to play and learn and also loll about and read. I would hate to see the experience of lolling about reading disappear as electronic entertainment pushes out less glittery forms of amusement. But I think there are enough parents (and children) who appreciate a quiet time with a book that such activities won’t be lost during this generation.
This summer I have been writing short chore lists for my children to complete before they can turn on the computer or go “hang out” with friends. Included on those lists are times for reading or playing instruments or practicing other skills. My hope is that the half-hour of reading will expand to an hour or two, or three. Summer is a wonderful time for many things: playing outside, eating cherries, and certainly READING!
So let’s let our kids read. Here is a list of activities that involve reading or other cognitive processing related to books and stories and imagination. I’d like to see some of your own ideas as well. It might give me something else to include on the daily chore lists!
- Cut words out of the newspaper. Arrange them on paper to make a funny letter.
- Find a blog about something you’re interested in and read a few entries.
- Make a treasure hunt for friends and leave clues to reach the treasure.
- Plant a flower or vegetable seed. Make a graph to chart its growth.
- Write a letter to a friend or grandparent and send it in the mail.
- Make puppets out of paper bags and put on a puppet show.
- Read the same book as a friend, then talk about it.
- Write and illustrate a little book of your own.
- Take a book on your vacation and read it.
- Learn some words in another language.
- Write a new ending to a familiar story.
- Watch a movie after reading the book.
- Read a book at night with a flashlight.
- Make up and illustrate a comic strip.
- Read up in a tree.
- Read a magazine.
- Read outside.