Summer Reading

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    Almost two hours into our road trip, the girls were quiet in the backseat. From behind the wheel, I marveled at how smoothly this journey was going as we made our way north to visit family and give away graduation gift cards.

    I snickered just thinking about the first time I embarked solo on a similar getaway. They were 4, 2, and new – as I was fond of saying back then.

    “It’s raining fishies!” four-year-old Sam exclaimed.

    I’ve blocked out most of it, but I do remember chucking handfuls of Goldfish over my shoulder, hoping those precious crackers would find purchase. Optimistic we could make it another 20 miles without a pit stop, I made it rain some more.

    “I feel so sorry for people who can’t read in the car,” 14-year-old Sam said now, as she removed her ear-buds and closed her book on her lap. In an instant I considered whether there was a car-sickness support group for those poor people, or more appropriately, for their parents. Probably not.

    When your kids were newborns, did you ponder the concept of potential like we did? Sam fit perfectly between the crook of her dad’s elbow and the tip of his finger. He called her Peanut because she was so tiny; today, her quest for knowledge is immense. And Robin with her long and lean fingers – of course she’s the piano player. The youngest was also the longest and the strongest. Lindsey is the athlete.

    Talented, kind, creative. Stubborn, bratty, lazy. The good with the bad, my daughters are truly everything at once. But right now, during these languid summer months, one of the things that delights me most as a parent, is that my kids are readers.

    Yes, readers – all of them. They read for pleasure and by choice. Did we predict this, or even think to hope for it, when they were babies? Definitely not. Do I realize what a gift it is? Indeed I do.

    Although it has taken a few summers to figure this one out, and a lot more camps than I care to admit paying for, I designate reading the ultimate diversion when the summer doldrums sneak in. When the dreaded “b” word is uttered…

    “I’m bored,” one of them complains.

    “Where’s your book?” I counter with a “b” word of my own.

    Still, it’s more of a challenge these days. Diversions abound. It’s certainly just as easy to reach for an iPod Touch, the Wii remote, or a DS Lite, as it is to pick up a book or magazine. As for my own reading, I’ve found that Facebook is leeching time from real books – something I plan to remedy this summer.

    If your child is in middle school and still hasn’t discovered reading as a pastime, it’s not hopeless, but it could be hard. One friend of mine literally pried the phone from her son’s hand and replaced it with a Nook. (And yes, they’re still on speaking – or rather, texting terms.) Another mom I know initiated a book-to-movie club with her daughter. When the group of 12-year-old girls finishes a title, she gets them all together to watch the film.

    Looking back, I know my husband and I did some early work to get our kids where they are today, but I wouldn’t call it heavy lifting by any means. We took simple steps, like reading with them every night before bed; giving books as gifts; spending quality time at the library; and reading aloud in the car on long trips.

    The first step, however, and perhaps the most important, is for parents themselves to recognize the value of reading. Whether it’s a newspaper, a book, or your favorite local family magazine, let your kids see you read. After all, it is the ultimate summer diversion.