EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 21, 2013

Close the book on summer reading arguments

Family Matters
Dr. Larry Larsen

---- — Dear Doctor,

This is nothing new, but both of our middle-school-aged boys were assigned summer reading. Last year we had the same problem. They both say this is their vacation. It isn’t fair. Why? You must have heard this before.

We nag and take things away. The reading is finally done, but no one, and I mean no one, is happy. I am of a mind to let the whole thing go this year since the gripes have already started.

Vacation Mom

Dear Mom,

Whose summer reading is it? What is your role and responsibility? What do you want to teach your children?

Avoid getting into the role of homework police. If the school is serious about the reading, let them handle it. The last I heard reading should be a pleasure and a joy, not a sentence for a “vacationless” summer.

As with all assignments your job is to provide time, space, and encouragement. Nagging, preaching, punishing and editorializing should not be on the menu. Simply set rules about some time without video games or other diversions. Start off with making it clear this is their assignment, not yours, and be done with it.

It seems to me that summer is a time for enrichment, provided by you. How about offering alternatives such as museums, athletic camps, short trips for learning and experiencing something new, doing a workshop, or a simple adventure. Think of summer as like a shelf. Your job is to put some things on the shelf to enrich and add to life.

That would not include taking on the school’s unwelcome assignment of becoming a homework policeman!

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. Email him questions or comments at lrryllrsn@CS.com.