Dear Dr. Linda,

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a vacation is defined as follows: 1) a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation; 2) a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended; 3) a respite or a time of respite from something.

Vacation this year has been stressful once again because of required summer reading. My kids are not big readers. Despite the fact that I have two master’s degrees and am a successful businesswoman, neither am I. It’s not that I have trouble reading—it’s that on vacation, I want to watch movies, go to plays, sightsee, visit with friends, family and more. Back in the ’70s when I was in school, summer vacation was just that—a time to relax and enjoy myself.

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I resent the fact that my children never have a true vacation from school. Kids who are avid readers have a vacation from math and science. With a summer reading list, they’re told to do something they already enjoy. Not true for my kids. I’ve approached my kid’s teachers every year and recommended that if they are going to assign required tasks during summer vacation, at least give kids other options than reading but so far, no progress. Any suggestions?

Vivian

Dear Vivian,

I happen to agree with you. Even though reading is an essential skill used by everyone every day in order to function in our society, it is not an activity that all adults enjoy or would select to do while on vacation. If an adult takes a book along, she chooses to do it.

Unfortunately, school-aged students don’t have that luxury these days. They are given assignments and are graded on how well they do on each assignment. Over the years, I’ve been with students who fail a test and they tell me it’s because it was on such and such book and they never finished reading it because they hated it. Parents have admitted to me that they have read some of the books to their children or even done the assignments for their children because the subject matter was either over their heads, too “heavy,” or of no interest to them.

Assigned summer reading is a problem in many homes. Teachers mean well because they’re under pressure to ensure that kids can read. And remember the goal—to try to make sure that children don’t lose the gains they made during the previous school year. However, it’s still a turn-off for kids who don’t enjoy reading, and you’re right. They don’t get the same break.

Even so, reading well is important, whether we like it or not. There’s another lesson to be learned here—sometimes, we have to do things we don’t want to do. The solution is learning how to make the best of a situation.

Go to the principal at your school and suggest that they have a school book fair with a variety of topics including sports, hobbies, things even children who don’t love to read are interested in. Take your child to the library and let them select the books they think they’d like to read. Even if the summer reading lists continue—and they probably will—the key is that the child will choose the book. No matter what age we are, when we have the option to choose, we feel like we have more control and are more likely to stick with it.

Dr. Linda