Create a Literacy-Rich Environment This Summer

Shortly before spring break this year, we got our results from the writing test given by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), sometimes called the Nation’s Report Card. The test was given to a representative sample of CMS eighth-graders, and it showed CMS was doing well compared to nine other urban districts.

It also reminded me of the limits of what schools can do. We can teach reading and writing and math — and we do that. We can give extra instruction to students who are struggling — and we do that. But we can’t add in things that are missing at home, even though we’d like to do that so every child succeeds in school.

We can’t control a child’s exposure outside of school to the things that nurture educational success. The NAEP results reminded me of a basic educational fact: Much of a child’s success in school is determined by what happens — or what doesn’t happen — at home. The writing tests were also a reminder that children who come from a literacy-rich environment do better at school from kindergarten through graduation.

So how can you create a literacy-rich environment for your child? It’s not difficult — all it takes is thought and time. You don’t have to set up a classroom at home to expose your child to the things that create and nurture inquiring minds. But neither should you count on television, videos and the Internet to do it for you.

The first important factor in a literacy-rich environment is reading. Your reading. Your child’s reading. Your family reading together. Stephanie Range, our director of advanced studies, offers this advice: “The most important thing is reading over the summer. Visit libraries, museums, etc.,” she says. “There are also several camps which specialize in science, math, writing and forensics available.”

CMS sends information about summer study opportunities directly to the schools, so parents should talk to Talent Development teachers, academic facilitators or counselors for specific programs at their children’s schools.

If you are looking for a more structured kind of learning experience that you can do with your child, this area is blessed with museums, libraries and art galleries that can enrich a child’s understanding of the world around us, and many of them have programs developed for children of various ages.

There are also a lot of opportunities for summer camps in this area. Whether your child is a budding scientist or the next Michelangelo, there’s probably a camp or a day program that offers a learning opportunity. Many houses of worship also provide summer learning for children.

A good place to look for resources for summer learning is the National Association for Gifted Children Web site ( It lists summer learning opportunities by state and nationally, such as the Talent Identification Program at Duke University in Durham and the North Carolina School for the Arts in Winston-Salem.

Summer is a good time for families to be together, to take short day trips and to promote learning outside the classroom. Throughout the summer, remember to take advantage of opportunities to keep your child reading and learning. Spending time with your child or children in creative, healthy activities will help prepare your student for the start of school next year.

However you and your family decide to spend time together this summer, make it a learning opportunity for your child whenever possible.
I hope all of you have a safe, healthy and happy summer vacation and we’ll see you in the fall.


Dr. Peter C. Gorman is the superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and father of a CMS fourth-grader.