College Corner: A little light summer reading for students

Published on Monday, 30 June 2014 18:11 - Written by Donna Spann, Guest Contributor

Keeping students motivated and engaged over the summer is always a little tricky. After all, after a long, hard school year, the last thing many teenagers want to do is anything resembling schoolwork. And the last thing many parents want to do is nag them about it.

Still, you don’t want your child to lose ground academically over the summer. Unfortunately, study after study has shown that most students do exactly that, especially if they’re not actively engaged in any educational activities. Students usually score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer than they do on the very same tests at the beginning of summer vacation, according to studies cited by the National Summer Learning Association. Some studies estimate the average student backslides about two months over the summer break.

Many schools have begun tackling this problem by assigning a summer reading list or simply setting a target for how many pages or books students should aim to read each week. But if your school hasn’t set any parameters, you may still want to offer some gentle encouragement to hit the books.

Your local library is a good place to start. Most will offer some sort of summer reading program, particularly for younger children, and many put together a reading list. I’ve never met a librarian who wasn’t delighted to offer personal suggestions.

High school students may enjoy discovering new books through an online group like , where they can connect with their friends, discover what those friends are reading, read reviews and write their own reviews, too.

If you’re an avid reader yourself, you may want to share your reading habits with your child. One friend bought her children an online subscription to The New York Times one summer; they read it on their tablets, and the family often discussed current events at dinner that summer.

Another started an informal book club with her young teenager. If a book seemed to border on being inappropriate for the teen, the mother would read it first. If it passed muster, the daughter got the green light to read it, and then they discussed the books together. They found several new favorite authors that summer.

For career-minded students, I often suggest research in their areas of interest. For example, students interested in medicine and engineering may spend time on the website of the Biomedical Engineering Society ( ); future graphic designers might explore , the site of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, which represents design professionals and offers great student resources.

Students also can set up a Google news alert with keywords connected to their intended major or colleges they hope to apply to. They’ll get insight into their field, stay on top of news connected to the school, and they’re still reading. It won’t seem like a chore since they’re highly interested in the topic.

Please, whatever you do, don’t turn reading into another chore over the summer. Unless your child just loves the classics (or it’s required by the school), save Shakespeare for the school year. Instead, pick popular authors, books that are being turned into movies, and genres such as sci-fi or mysteries that you know your child loves. The goal isn’t just to keep your student from losing academic ground over the summer; it’s to help them grow into an adult who loves reading for reading’s sake.


Donna Spann is CEO of Capstone College and Career Advising in Tyler. A college adviser for 12 years, Donna leads a team of professionals who take a personal approach to advising that helps students navigate through career and college exploration, admissions, financial aid, and find the college that’s right for them. Have a question for Donna? Send it to You just may see your question answered in a future column.