Momsensical: Preventing summer brain rot in kids

One of the many dreams I have for my kids is that they avoid brain rot whenever possible. Hence, I have instituted several anti-brain-rotting measures over the years. Some have proven more successful than others, but in the interest of my kids’ brains, I keep trying.

Without taking the time to do extensive research, I’m pretty sure that too much screen time can cause brain rot. So I wrote a list of requirements that my kids must finish before any screen time is allowed. According to my kids, this list is grounds for notifying Child Protective Services since it contains such grueling tasks as scrubbing toilets, practicing piano and doing homework.

Other activities that make the list are related to moving their bodies and being creative with their minds.  They don’t complain quite as much about these.

But reading often seems to be the most taxing item on the list. My kids assert that school already requires so much reading that their brains are rendered useless by the time they get home.

I respectfully disagree – particularly during the summer.

A few years ago, my 8-year-old son took covert action in hopes of circumventing my reading rule. I was gone during his alleged reading session, so when I returned home he ran up to me and breathlessly declared, “Mom, I’m done reading! Can I play the Wii now?”

This kid is usually a stand-up guy and I hated to suspect otherwise, but I dug a little more and asked, “For how long?”

“A long time, Mom. A really, really long time!”

His smile was too big. I wasn’t buying it.

“OK then, show me what you read.”

Donning the huge, innocent eyes of an animated Disney character, my son disappeared briefly and reappeared with a book in hand and announced, “I read the whole thing!”

It happened to be Disney’s storybook version of “The Jungle Book,” which was on his reading level and would have been a believable story except for a teeny detail.

The familiar cover illustration lured my son in, so he failed to look closely at the title, which read, “Das Dschungelbuch.” He hadn’t taken into account the fact that I am a former English and German teacher, meaning we have German books mixed in with the English ones on our shelves.

It was comically painful to watch his face when I opened the book and asked him to read the first page. The poor guy earned himself exactly zero Wii time that day.

Since I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to read, it has baffled me when my kids aren’t delighted at the chance. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that my kids are not my reading clones.

I find myself thinking and strategizing and researching entirely outside of what I used to think of as my fairly comprehensive “reading” box. One of the most compelling recent studies I found came from the University of Oxford in 2011. It concludes that the only extra-curricular activity (at age 16) that is linked to professional success later in life is reading.  And so I continue to fight the good fight.  Some of my tactics prove more successful than others, but in the interest of my kids’ brains, I keep trying.

I wouldn’t mind if some of my kids turn into book nerds like me. Truthfully, though, I would never truly want them to be my clones (one of me is more than enough).  What I really want for them has more to do with dreams.

If my kids can become successful readers, their dreams of becoming athletes and artists and comedians and paleontologists and kindergarten teachers are far more likely to become realities.

And of all the dreams I have for my kids, my fondest one is to help their own dreams come true. So I’m committed to doing everything it takes — anti-brain-rotting measures included — to launch them as high and as far as possible in the right direction.

Note:  Susie will be giving a presentation called “Reading Seriously Rocks: Proven Ways to Unleash the Inner Reader in Just About any Kid and Why it’s So Very Important” at the Flower Mound Public Library on Tuesday, June 12th at 7 p.m.  Susie will present proven ideas for motivating kids to read and tackling reading challenges in children.  She will also share a book list for kids and teens titled “Moms Weigh In: Books We Adore” as well as other book and reading resources that can assist parents and educators as they help the children in their lives be more successful (and enthusiastic!) readers. For more information, visit Susie’s website at  For reservations, please call the library at 972-874-6165.

Susie Boyce is a freelance writer based in Highland Village. Read her column each month in The Cross Timbers Gazette. Contact Boyce at [email protected] or visit her website at

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