For the last nine weeks, it seems like everywhere I look someone is writing or talking about summer reading. I’ve been seeing summer reading recommendations and advice for parents on engaging kids in meaningful learning opportunities all over the web since the end of April.

It’s been hard to get into the summer reading spirit though when June 24 is the last day of school for my boys.

But now summer is “officially” starting in my house and I have tons of summer reading and learning ideas. For my oldest, I was going to pair fiction and nonfiction titles and arrange related museum or field trip experiences and possibly some connected viewing, music, or multimedia. Here’s an example:

Fiction reading:
The Danger Box by Blue Balliett
This enlightening and satisfying mystery has a little of everything—crime, fire, abandonment, outcasts, friendship, scientific discovery and Charles Darwin

Nonfiction reading:
Charles Darwin (Giants of Science) by Kathleen Krull
This accessible biography of Charles Darwin reads so well it would be a good read aloud for the whole family

Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin
Darwin’s first person adventure as the official naturalist on the HMS Beagle

Viewing:
Darwin’s Darkest Hour
A two-hour PBS drama on the crisis that forced Darwin to publish his theory of evolution

Galápagos: The Islands That Changed the World
BBC documentary that explores the natural history and history of exploration of the Galapagos Islands

Multimedia:
Explore the Galapagos
Incredibly cool interactive map from NOVA at PBS.org that lets you see the islands as they are today and learn how they inspired Darwin

As I thought about how to present this plan to my teenaged son, I started to have doubts. Even though he just finished The Danger Box and expressed an interest in knowing more about Darwin, I can already envision the Darwin biography pushed under his bed.

My son is a reader. He reads about 15,000 pages a year and always asks me, “What book do you have for me to read next?”

So instead of worrying about putting together lovely, interesting themed packages for him, I decided instead to try to stop spoon feeding him and figure out how to get him to start choosing his own reading material.

He occasionally gets recommendations from friends, but for the most part, it’s me filling the library basket with selections I think that he might like or offering a review copy of new title that I’ve recently enjoyed. Our house is bursting with reading material of all kinds—there’s no shortage of books, newspapers, magazines, or multimedia.

I feel like I should know better. My years at Reading Is Fundamental instilled the belief that getting to choose your own book really motivates a reader. Learning to make choices is such an important life skill and now that I have a teenager on my hands, I really want him to feel that he knows how to make smart choices. Choosing your own book isn’t that big of a deal, but it is really great to have the decision-making practice and to understand the consequences of choices.

Our summer reading and learning then is going to focus on what it takes to choose—time, patience, and trial-and-error. We’ll talk about appropriateness and where to look for help if he needs it, like talking to the librarian or reading reviews of books.

Here’s hoping the library basket is full all summer—with titles I didn’t choose.