Our Summer of Reading (and Learning) Freedom by Teresa Bunner

“School’s Out for summer! School’s out forever!” These words reverberated from the mouths of my four boys the last day of school.  There was an added air of freedom and possibility as we entered our first summer in four years with no summer reading assignments. I must confess to having done a happy dance around the house at the realization I would not have to drag my oldest child kicking and screaming through another arduous assignment. And I wouldn’t have to listen to my middle two grumble and complain about all the other reading they would rather be doing.


Just because there has been no assigned summer reading assignment does not mean there hasn’t been reading or learning going on my boys’ lives. When I think about what they’ve done already and the fact that we still have almost a month left of summer, I am amazed! Here’s a run-down of just some of what they’ve done… (I’ve changed their names just a bit!)


Nat – Rising high school senior. Nat has been working with Raspberry Pi. Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized ,Linux based system computer board you connect to a TV or flat screen monitor. You write your own code and create your own computer. He has read several programming manuals and researched the topic online. He’s read Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, as well as rereading some of Oscar Wilde’s plays. He has grown to like the works of Wilde and our last visit to the bookstore yielded a purchase of the biography Constance, the story of Wilde’s wife. He has visited two college campuses and tomorrow returns from eight days on the UC Berkeley campus where he attended an Engineering and Technology Leadership camp. He spent a week with his youth group building new houses for those affected by tornadoes.


I-Man- Rising sophomore. I-Man has spent the summer taking an online Honors Chemistry class. I did not want him to. But he wants to take AP Biology next year and this is a prerequisite. He’s read Biochemistry for Dummies, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman and he has reread Gifted Hands by Ben Carson (which he’ll tell you is the best book ever written!). He played summer baseball, competed in a summer swim league and trained with the soccer team. He, too, went for a week with the youth group to help build homes.


C-Dog- Rising sophomore. C-Dog is a competitive swimmer who has found a new love in running. He has trained all summer with the cross country team and spent a week on the campus of College of William and Mary at a swim camp learning from college coaches and exploring the campus (one of his top school choices right now). He has read Hate List by Jennifer Brown, started The Diviners by Libba Bray (but decided it was no Going Bovine, so put it aside) and is now reading Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach. He’s spent hours fishing at his grandparents and spent the week with the youth group building new homes.


Devster- Rising 6th grader. He is the only one who actually has assigned reading for middle school. He chose to read Bone, the graphic novel. He has reread his Geronimo Stilton books and picked up The People of Sparks. He has competed in various swim meets with his competitive team and a summer team. He attended baseball camp sponsored by his brother’s high school team. He’s had various sleepovers. And cleaned his room (this is probably his greatest accomplishment this summer!).

I don’t put all this out there to brag (although I do think my guys are pretty awesome!) I put it out there as an example of the busy lives kids lead and of all the enrichment they are experiencing that somehow has been deemed less important than reading a particular book title. In the end, I want my boys to be life-long learners and readers, but also good people. People who reach out and help others, people who pursue their passions and the things they love, people who explore the world and challenge themselves in new ways each day. Reading one assigned book and completing mandatory assignments will not develop them into these types of people. But summers of reading (and learning) freedom with enriching opportunities will.  I’m thankful that I have had the freedom this summer as their mom to provide them with that.


Teresa Bunner has been an elementary, middle and high school teacher and reading specialist. She’s been a member of the Nerdy Book Club for as long as she can remember. When she’s not busy sharing books with the kids she works with, she enjoys sharing them with the 4 boys in her house who are avid readers as well. You can find her thoughts on closing the achievement gap as a featured blogger for Triumph Learning.