Harry Potter or Sidewalk Chalk?


I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts about SUMMER! As in no school, no learning, no teachers, no pressure. And the “Woo-hoo! Yay!” of that.

This reminds me of a post I wrote last year about summer reading (posted below). I’m going to be the wet blanket here. I think kids should continue learning during the summer. What I don’t understand is why kids can’t learn and have fun. Why is there such an extreme separation between these views? I don’t think there needs to be. ThoughtBubble

Going to the beach, riding bikes, blowing bubbles, swimming…these are all wonderful parts of summer. That doesn’t mean kids can’t read or use some of their outdoor time learning about nature.

My children are out of school, and it is officially summer break around here. They both love reading and willingly grab books daily as a fun activity. But what about those who would rather not read? Summer Slide is real.

After you’ve dried off from the pool or wiped sand from between little toes, sit down in the sunshine and have some DEAR time or read to your kids.

Who says you can’t have a picnic and read Percy Jackson?


My Sunday thoughts in 200 words or less.


Summer Reading Book (s)

When I was in school, we had required summer reading lists. Every year. With multiple books we were required to read. End-of-summer / back-to-school meant buying clothes, pencils, notebooks, and a backpack. It also meant preparing ourselves to prove we did our summer reading. In grade school, we had to write book reports. When we entered junior high, we were tested on the reading.

I suppose I’m old(ish) but, wow, have things changed that much? Get this. My kids have to read a book over the summer. One. Book. AND they don’t technically have to read it—this is a request not a requirement. Reading a book is “great!” and “encouraged!” but not “required”. Consequently, my kids will not be tested on or even asked about the book(s) they read because they weren’t expected to read any.


Also, there is a page trying to talk students (or parents?) into this one book by spouting “Summer Slide” statistics and research about expanded vocabulary and increased success in school.

There is a list of book suggestions, yes, but they are popular books including many comic books and magazines. I’m not looking for a fight. My kids read both of the above and some of them are fantastic but I’m talking summer reading here. I don’t understand how we went from a required list of specific books to a suggested list of popular books in one generation.

Okay, it’s been twenty thirty years since I was in grade school and things are bound to change a bit in that time but, honestly, taking away summer reading? It’s still there, technically, but it’s really not. Not with the mild, mousy voice of it-would-be-so-neat-if-you-could-maybe-possibly-read-one-book-or-something-with-words-on-it-this-summer.


Did you have summer reading when you were in school? Do your children? Are they going to read this summer? If so, is it for fun or because their school required it? 


32 thoughts on “Harry Potter or Sidewalk Chalk?

  1. Of course learning should and will continue over the holidays. And of course it should and will be fun. For your family and many others as well. But not for all. Opportunities for learning are there in everything that families do. It is just knowing how to make the most of those opportunities, and to keep the children curious and eager to learn. I have three free lists of suggestions for learning over the holidays in my TPT store – one for reading, one for writing and one for maths. All of the suggestions can be easily integrated into everyday family activities. Michael Rosen’s book: Good Ideas: How to Be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher also has wonderful ideas. Of course I am listing these for others, rather than for you. I know you have no shortage of ideas of your own. Maybe I will re-post my suggestions for your summer holidays!
    I never had set reading homework when I went to school and am not aware of set reading being required of any other Australian students. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but it is not a common occurrence. My preference would be for it to not be set and for children to have time to do learning and reading of their own selection. But I accept that the ‘summer slide’ is real and it is important to avoid that occurring as well. I think that ‘required’ reading may only end up being rushed or fudged by those who, perhaps, most need it anyway. I can’t think of a solution to offer at the moment, but I’ll give it some thought. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agreed. There are opportunities for learning everywhere. Ha! We have no shortage of books, that’s for sure. My kids both love to read but, I think, required reading would be great for kids who don’t want to read. You’re right. Those are the kids who need it most. Books might be rushed through but at least, if it’s required and someone holds kids accountable for reading them, books will be read. They don’t have to love it. The summer reading lists now are so varied, there’s something for every taste — even magazines and graphic novels so, hopefully, kids will find something that amuses them.
      I really think you should write a post for the summer break. You’ll get to write two. One for our hemisphere, one for yours. 🙂 I look forward to reading that, if you decide to post it.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Sarah,
        Here’s what I’ve written in response to your post, and linking to three previous posts of suggestions. Thanks for giving me the opportunity of sharing them again. 🙂 Learning fun for the holidays…
        As I say in my post, I am not convinced about required reading, or work of any kind, being set for students in the holidays. In my ideal world, all children would love to read. But my ideal world is not a reality. I wish I had a magic wand to make it so. I’m not convinced that requiring them to do something they don’t enjoy will have any major positive impact. If there were some way to engage them with things they enjoy, that would be wonderful. I haven’t thought out a solution to the dilemma as yet for, unfortunately, I think it comes down to the culture of each individual family. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I happen to agree with you on both counts. Learning should continue all the time, and it CAN be fun. Munchkin will be in kindergarten this fall, but we’ve been reading, practicing spelling and math, have talked about human rights (Yay for equal marriage rights!), traffic laws, and various nature related things…

    What puzzles me more is that somehow we assume that we stop learning when we’re “out of school” or when we become adults. Going through life without ever learning anything new would be horribly boring.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes! How do we “stop” learning? Why would we? Scary and, yes, wickedly boring. I love learning new things. I’ll never stop learning. Even if it’s my little one telling me that some spiders can grow to the size of a dinner plate. (Those are two words that should never be used in the same sentence.)

      I started “teaching” before Kindergarten, too. I mean, there’s so many opportunities. I love hearing about moms like you. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Minutes before I stumbled across this post my daughter came downstairs and said ‘look, I’m almost done with my book!’
    That makes me so happy, because she is not a huge fan of reading, but we were adamant that the summer will not be spent on her phone!

    Liked by 2 people

    • That makes me happy, too! 🙂 I love to hear that kids are reading. And I love to hear about awesome parents like you. There are so many genres out there now…there’s something for everyone. Even I’d-rather-be-on-my-phone readers.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Summer is full of learning opportunities and reading time! I used to pack a book in my saddlebags and after I pushed the cows up to the springs I sit under a tree by the creek and read for as long as I could. I didn’t have official summer reading until high school.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly. It’s hard to imagine (because I’m such an nerd) that people don’t like to read so I would have been like you. Sans the cows…I don’t recall ever pushing cows up to the springs. That’s such a great visual. It’s making me think of Heidi or something. 🙂 Back to my point, and yours, that summer is full of opportunities for learning.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I was nerd, too, just a buckaroo nerd. I always rode with a buck knife on my hip in a calfskin sheath like I was the love child of Heidi and Grizzly Adams. 😀 I’d also practice my rope or knife throwing skills along with gobbling up books! Hee, hee…you could add those to your summer line up of things to learn!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. My kids are 13 and totally don’t want to read or do any math over the summer. They have a reading list and I’ll be lucky they get one book, so we take them to museums and travel to new places and try to GET culture or new experiences ingrained that way. So frustrating they won’t read!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Huh. I’m surprised. Mom’s an author… I made a bold assumption your kids would like reading. That is frustrating. And with so many different genres out there now. No graphic novels? Nothing? Well, traveling and museums are some of my favorite ways to spend time (and learn) so that sounds like a great summer to me. 🙂 Hope you all enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t remember if I had a summer reading list, but that is probably because I was always reading. My son has one required book for his pre-AP reading class. My daughter none BUT our local libraries offer summer reading programs that offer different prizes for different amounts of hours read over the summer. And the schools throw a party for those kids once school starts back up.
    It’s a great program since reading is not required unless you are in an advanced class.

    This was a great post, you always know how to make us think with your thought bubbles lol!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I would have been reading anyway, like you. And, fortunately, like my kids. But sending home a note about Summer Slide then making a “suggestion” that kids read one book over the next three months… It’s ridiculous. Yay for his AP class and your library! I think our library does something like that and our local bank. They put $10 into your child’s account if they read and record ten books. Of course, you have to have or open a savings at that bank but so what? Kids managing money = good thing.

      I’m glad I make you think with my Thought Bubbles. I almost wrote a Thought Bubble about that. O_o I’ll give you a minute…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My kids will be reading all summer because they love it. Also working on math skills, that they don’t like. And we’ll do some extra learning fun stuff, like rock hunting, bird watching, museums and such. I think it should be a mix. Yesterday was bowling, I slipped in some math on the sly. : )

    Liked by 2 people

    • Mine, too. Reading = ❤ in this house. Math lessons are easy to slip into everyday activities. It was my least favorite subject but now, as a parent, I'm aware of how often we use it. I absolutely love rock hunting and bird watching, going to concerts, museums, and aquariums… Awesome summer fun, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I first need to get my daughter reading. She’s four, and can pick out some words, but really doesn’t like to do the work to sound stuff out. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Four is young. She’ll get there in her time. Some kids I know were “early readers” at 4 or 5, others were just getting sight words down at 6. Meh. The hardest thing is having her want to do it — hopefully she’ll find something irresistible and be off and running. Or, you know, reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wonderful post, Sarah. And I completely agree with you!!! Actually I have some good, supporting data to substantiate your claim! We homeschool our Kids…and yes, we do school all through the year. taking breaks for major holidays or vacations.

    Now I understand that the Homeschool structure allows for special scenarios which are not possible in a public/private school arena. But I want to say that it does not have an adverse effect on my children to be studying and having class during the summer months.

    I’ll agree they do have the benefit of never having known any other type of way (you can’t miss what you never had) But, it doesn’t seem strange to them as they are constantly meeting for recreational activities and field trips with the other kids in our homeschooling group. and they are keenly aware that other kids who go to public/private schools don’t have class during the summer. It just doesn’t seem to bother them at all.

    Thanks for writing this post! I enjoyed reading it.

    Take care,


    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m certain there is a lot of data to back this up. In the U.S., our summer break is too long to go without any work at all. My older son struggles with writing so he is keeping a summer journal. He enjoys writing in it about his day. Without that, he would have slipped badly in his writing skills. Homeschooling is fast becoming a popular way to teach children. I have no doubt whatsoever that your kids are not suffering during the summer months. 😉

      I suppose you can’t miss what you never had but I think it’s more than that. I’ve met a lot of happy homeschooled kids who have no desire to change their learning environment.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Learning fun for the holidays, without a slide in sight! | Norah Colvin

  11. You’re not a wet blanket – reading is supposed to be fun! It’s always so sad to me when kids don’t like to read. I was a huge reader as a kid, and I hope I can help my own kids be the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Yes Sarah! I actually think it’s that attitude of, “Yay summer, no school, all fun, woo hoo!” that sends the wrong message. How can kids be expected to excel and enjoy school when parents treat it as another hassle they now don’t have to do?

    We read as kids, but kind of sappy books like Babysitters Club. I didn’t become an avid reader unfortunately until after college. My kids though love reading. Since my husband and I work, we don’t have a ‘real’ summer where kids stay home for two months. When our eldest was in preschool, it was year-round. Now, he goes to summer camp.

    No matter what though, we read with them every day, every night, and do one sheet of ‘homework’ every night. Some might say I’m crazy or overbearing, but when you find your kid doing the worksheets on his own, reading aloud on his own, then you know it’s because he loves learning, not something he has to be nagged to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It does send a message, doesn’t it? I read sappy books, too, but I read. There was a lot of Judy Blume around when I was kid. Babysitters Club was a wee bit after my time, I think. 😉 Also, I remember reading a lot of Shel Silverstein. Yes, that three whole months off is a lot of time away from school. Lots of time for fun, yes, but also away from learning and keeping the mind sharp. Reading to them every day (or night) is awesome. We’ve been doing that (and still do) since they were born.

      I love when parents tell me I’m an awful parent because I “force” my kids to learn when they ask for math worksheets or want to use my computer for that “cool site” teaching about black holes and the speed of light. But that is another post altogether.


  13. Pingback: Life is like . . . a game of Snakes and Ladders | Norah Colvin

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