Journey of a Superintendent: What Are You Reading?

Dr. Cynthia Lane, Superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools

Summer is officially here. It always begins with much anticipation as children and grownups alike think of days filled with ballgames, picnics, warm days and cool evening breezes. As educators we look forward to time to refresh, attend classes, and prepare for the next school year. We also worry about “summer slide.”

Summer slide occurs when our children and youth are not involved in activities that stimulate their minds. It is all too common for our kids to return to school and have the first several weeks filled with review to reactivate the knowledge and skills that fell dormant over the extended break. Athletes would never think about taking two months off from their training routines. So why do we think our minds can go dormant? Our minds need regular workouts just as our bodies need routine exercise (so they tell me).  Keeping the minds of our kids active over the summer will go a long way in preventing the “slide” and assisting teachers to move right into new learning as soon as the school year begins. So how, in our busy lives, do we find time to ensure that our kids continue to train their brains and stay in “shape” to return to school? Read. It’s that simple.

Our kids need to be reading, reading, and reading. No matter the age, from four-year-olds to 90-year-olds, reading is essential. Think about it. Have you ever met a person who is living what you consider to be a successful life who does not or cannot read? Now more than ever, reading is an essential skill. So what can we do over the “lazy days of summer” to ensure that our kids are reading? Provide daily opportunities for our kids to read. Read books from the library, read magazine articles, newspaper clippings, read labels on packages and discuss the vocabulary, read for pleasure or read to learn something new. It really doesn’t matter what kids, and adults, are reading. Just read! If your child is young and just beginning to learn about letters and words, read to them each day. Think of all the fun ways to look for words and letters throughout your daily routine.

The District has a summer reading program long referred to as “Summer Reading Achievers.” The program provides encouragement and incentives to our youth to read. I drove through a neighboring school district and noticed a sign in front of one of their elementary schools that said “read at least 1,000 pages over the summer break.” Personally, I love to ask kids and adults “what are you reading?”  This simple question, “what are you reading?” is a great way to start a conversation and inevitably leads to learning something new and interesting. So join with me to encourage our kids (and adults) to read. We can stamp out “summer slide,” and, most importantly, we can help our kids establish habits and patterns that will most assuredly lead to success and satisfying lives. Remember, it’s up to us to do whatever it takes. Today, let’s ask “what are you reading?”

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