There’s no better season to fall in love with reading.
There’s something about summer reading, isn’t there? Sure, cozying up under a blanket with a hot cup of cocoa in winter is fun, but reading in summer has its own special magic to it. It reminds me of my own childhood summers.
I spent many of my summer days at home reading. I read in my bedroom, sprawled out in front of a box fan, or out by the pool in our back yard. I stayed up late and read by nightlight until my eyes drooped, and I just couldn’t keep them open anymore, falling asleep with all the possibilities of the next chapter running through my head.
Summers, for me, were about re-reading my favorite books with an intense fury. The series books got the most attention: Nancy Drew Case Files, Baby-Sitters Club, The Chronicles of Narnia, Encyclopedia Brown, and others.
Summers are about escaping — escaping the confines of school, the homework, the teachers, the early mornings, and rigid schedules. They are also about escaping into another world, about discovering new places, about realizing that our problems are everyone’s problems, our insecurities and fears and hopes completely common to everyone else. Oh, how I loved the freedom to read whatever I wanted, to crack open that cover and discover what was waiting for me.
It’s something about the endless heat, the longer days, the sense of slowing down. It’s the reason we have “beach reads.” That’s the only way you’ll really get me to stay in the sun for very long — if I’m immersed in a good book. It takes something special to take my mind off melting in the heat.
My son just finished kindergarten and is well on his way to knowing how to read. I’ll never forget the day when we were sitting around being silly, and I wrote him a note and folded it up and dared him to read it. And then was astonished when he did open it and, without even a struggle, read the message. “Dear Dash, You smell like cats. Love, Mom.”
Now, we can discuss for hours the creativity and genius of my note-writing (which is clearly superior), but my point is that it was amazing to see him “get it.” It's similar to the way the brain clicks and just suddenly knows how to balance and ride a bike, or how to kick your feet and move your body just so to start swimming. But it's also a more gradual process than that, a slow building of understanding that blossoms as we string together letters, words, sentences.
Dash is still very much learning. He stumbles over words. He gets frustrated. One day, he’ll be a sounding-out champion, the next, he forgets simple sight words. The first time he read the entire 64 pages of Go Dog Go, it probably took him 45 minutes and lots of frustration. But like when he was learning to ride his bike, he gets back on when he falls down. He comes back to the page. He starts again.
Already this summer, the world has begun to open up to Dash in different ways, all through literacy. He can read the "No Diving" sign at the pool and the "No Littering" sign in the park. There's the simple delight in being able to read the titles of songs and artists displayed on the car dashboard as we drive, or having more knowledge of the menu at restaurants. But then there’s also the self-discovery of story, like the time Dash sat in my closet while I was getting ready in the morning and read himself a new book just so he could re-tell me the story.
The library, too, has become an essential part of summer for us. Ever since he was a toddler, we've had him complete the Summer Reading Series at our local library. And while in the past we've read the books to him, this is the first year that he'll be reading everything by himself. It will be a well-earned coupon book for sure.
As a reader and writer myself, this feels like the greatest gift I can give to Dash. He’s now at the stage where he’s unafraid to invent spelling, more excited about the power of expressing himself than worrying about if the words are exactly right.
Recently, on a weekend trip, we wrote a book together, complete with illustrations. There’s nothing more delightful to me than trying to translate his invented spelling, thus getting a glimpse into his creative mind, into the things he cares about and wants to capture.
I hope the reading summers to come bring the same sort of delight to my son that they did to me. I hope that when he comes in from a playdate or arrives home from a day camp that he’ll get joy in curling up with a book here and there.
I hope that we continue to read at night as a family, too, to find that bonding in a collective story. For there’s really nothing more wonderful to hear than those sweet four words: “One more chapter, please?”