What is the point of school district summer reading assignments? It's just making me a nag to my son, who thinks his summer should be a total vacation from school.

 "What happens when you stop exercising for two months?" asks David Weiss, assistant superintendent of secondary education in the Commack School District. "You get flabby. You're not in as good shape." The same thing applies to the mind, he says. Summer reading keeps kids' cognitive and processing skills in shape to hit the ground running upon return to school in September. "You need to continue using the skills you have, or you're going to go backward," he says.

Schools are also trying to help students learn to incorporate reading into their lives outside of the classroom, so that they view it as an enjoyable, lifelong activity instead of just required homework. Commack, for instance, has put students on the summer-reading list committee in charge of choosing books to try to ensure a wide range of choices that includes classics as well as more contemporary works.

Try getting involved with your son's summer reading in some other way besides nagging. Perhaps you need to set aside a half- hour a night where reading is done. "What may be necessary for a highly reluctant reader is that the whole household spends half an hour a night reading," Weiss says. Your son can read his books while you read the newspaper or a magazine. You might also try reading the same book he's reading and discuss it.