As I look back with fondness over the summers of my youth, amidst the long hot days of swimming and biking that slid into the long evenings of catching lightning bugs and fending off mosquitoes, I remember the late nights I spent reading. Staying up past midnight, putting the window A/C on full blast to fight the humidity, and curling up under a quilt made by my grandma, I plowed my way through books I’d gathered at the library with my mom. It was a tradition to get as many books as we could carry. Mom read some aloud to me until I was old enough to choose my own books and stay up late by myself. It was a summer tradition that lasted from grade school through my high school years. Classics, Newbery or Caldecott Award winners, obscure older books, or current bestsellers. The genre didn’t matter as long as I could be transported with the characters to some place new, some place exciting, or some place that made me glad I was safe at home in my own bed. I met new friends in those books, as well as enemies. Some I remember to this day.
This tradition of summer reading holds such a place in my heart that I want to continue it with my daughters. Although we love reading all year long, the summer takes on a different pace. We slow down. We look less for the book report lesson or clever unit study, and more for the moment of enjoying the written word. We analyze less and feel more. Literary analysis and unit studies are wonderful and a great way (our favorite way) of learning. However, there is something to be said for reading just for the sheer joy of reading. Of opening a book and reading it from start to finish, maybe in one day without stopping at all. Or maybe over several days, digesting each chapter like a good meal. Some books are meant to be dessert while others are a main course. There is room for both cotton candy and roast beef in our summer reading menu.
Sometimes during the summer we re-read some of our favorites, like The Trumpet of the Swan or Charlotte’s Web. Although my girls are capable of reading on their own, we still enjoy our read-aloud times. Sometimes we find some of my favorites from when I was a little girl, like the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary. The summer pace allows time for the discovery of books in a series. For instance, my girls loved The Boxcar Children and were glad to find out that there are 39 books in that series! All of a Kind Family is a great book that also has sequels. Misty of Chincoteague is the first book in a series of books about horses, something my girls really like. They also like to catch up on Nancy Drew mysteries and American Girl stories during the summer. All of these make great summer reading!
We made a trip to the library a few days ago, gathering all the books we could carry. Tonight I’ll wish sweet dreams to my daughters as they read by the light of a small bedside lamp. I’ll cover them with quilts made by their grandma and great-grandma, crank up the window A/C, and let them stay up late reading. While they get lost in a good story, I’ll go to sleep with a smile as I dream of literature and lightning bugs.