The sun is taunting you from the window, and the warm fills the room with a comfortable daze. That’s right, it’s almost summer, and everyone at school is getting restless, including you. Without a doubt, the end of the school year can make learning tiring, and “summer” is synonymous with “a break from learning,” right? Your City Year AmeriCorps Members get excited when you learn, grow, and meet your goals, but studies show that when learning (i.e., frequently practicing skills) takes a break during summer, students can slide back on their skill levels. Let's plan ahead so that this summer, we can explore, play, and compete in ways to keep all enriched!

“Summer” and “Reader” Have the Same Number of Letters

“Boring,” “hard to focus on,” and “you can't move around at all” are all reasons that I've heard from my students for why they don't like to read in their free time. Sure, I definitely get that sometimes, when the sun is shining and everyone is outside, relaxing, many people don't want to be stuck inside, by themselves, reading. One of the best ways to combat this is to turn reading into a social activity!

When you can, go to the library with friends. Don't have a library card? Get together with people and all go together to get one—many cities, including Philadelphia, allow you to sign up online as well. Gathering group input, y'all can pick out a book or series to read together (my students have been reading The Bluford Series together and love it). Although you might associate book clubs with retired moms or college English majors, it can be productive, enlightening, and enjoyable to discuss these books together! Is talking not your thing? Have a reading competition with your friends—whoever reads the most books in the summer wins and gains the admiration of the group.

Some students tell me that they never know what to read and that there is just too much out there. Luckily, there are a few solutions out there: ask your teacher or local librarian for a summer reading list, take a poll from friends on their favorite books, or use book matching websites like Book Adventure to be given a list of titles that match the criteria you enter. There you go, plenty of ways to both have fun and practice your reading over the summer, and what's more fun than escaping to a new world or living someone else's lives for a couple hundred pages?

Doing the Summer the Write Way

Nothing gets the brain working better than writing, and there's no shortage of things to write about. Even so, many people’s efforts to write at home ended with their old diary that's been gathering dust for years. That’s why although it can be difficult to find motivation and inspiration, it’s important for you to push yourself to find something to write about.

As cliche as it can be, writing a diary or a journal can be a great way to get yourself to begin a good writing habit. Whether the entries are deep, personal thoughts, observations on your day, or even your reaction to the latest football game or singing competition, committing to writing at least a bit a day can really help you get into a positive writing habit. If you’re the creative type, try mixing writing with drawing or collaging. Went to a new park with some friends? Gather some leaves or sketch the plants (plus you can research them more in-depth later). In that way, you can start to link writing with activities you’re already passionate about.

Do you really just not know what to write about? Look for lists of prompts online (you can literally just Google “writing prompts” and some great lists will pop up), and many stores sell books with prompts, activities, etc., which all revolve around writing. For me, my favorite sort of writing to do is poetry. Many people can be intimidated by creative writing, fearing that whatever they produce will not be good enough. This sort of writing, however, can link many different functions of your brain and pushing literacy skills to the next level. Every little bit counts, and even the ability to write a few lines of speech can be tricky. Nonetheless, you just have to keep at it, and you’ll start to love the worlds you can create. Whether it’s a poem a day with different themes every week or a page a day of the next greatest young adult novel, creative writing can really push your boundaries and keep your writing skills in their prime.

Now, you have a few fun suggestions to hopefully keep your mind fresh and time exciting. Who knows, maybe you’ll even use all of these tips to keep learning throughout this entire summer!

Written by City Year Philadelphia AmeriCorps Member, Luke Pasko serving at Warren G.Harding Middle School. The work of Luke and his team is made possible by Team Sponsor, Wawa.

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