This sometimes-dreaded phrase is one that is often heard from children, over and over and over again, all summer long. What is boredom? The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines it as the state of being bored, a dull time. Having nothing to do or performing tasks repetitively can contribute to feelings of boredom. Boredom can make us feel irritable, tired, and uninterested in our tasks or jobs. Most of us find boredom to be uncomfortable and seek out ways to combat it. Parents are quick to search out activities to occupy their children’s time.
But is boredom so bad? Maybe not. Some contend that allowing children to experience unstructured leisure time provides them with opportunities to be creative and discover their own passions. In the article, “Summertime: the Beauty of Boredom”, Lisa Gromicko explores the benefits of a little boredom. She passes along a recommendation from The Alliance for Childhood to schedule at least one hour of unstructured play each day and recommends that children be encouraged to fill that time with simple pleasures like building forts or looking at cloud formations.
Whereas a little boredom may good, a lot of it can be harmful. Studies show that students who are bored with the subject matter tend to have poorer school performances. In the article, “Neuroscience Reveals that Boredom Hurts,” Judy Willis discusses the psychological effects of boredom and its impact on student engagement. Children who experience a lot of boredom during the summers are further harmed. Low-income students are especially impacted as they tend to have less access to engaging summer activities. Low-income students experience summer after summer of monotony, each lacking enough intellectually stimulating activities to maintain any learning gains. They often “lose, on average, one to three months of grade-level equivalence in reading scores relative to where they finished the previous academic year.” (“The Boredom of Summertime”, Walker Swain, 2013). By the end of high school, they are years behind their middle-income classmates in reading ability.
Thus, finding a balance in the amount of structured activity and leisure time seems vital. Libraries can help you find this balance. Library databases contain authoritative articles on this topic. Libraries also have broad collections of books on this topic– books that can help you and your children understand what boredom is, why we all experience it, and healthy ways to combat it. Just search your library’s catalog for the term “bored” or “boredom”. To view some in our collection, click here.
July is an ideal time to learn about boredom and to explore ways to experience less of it. Since the late 1980’s, National Anti-boredom Month has been observed each July. For some suggestions on ways that you can observe National Anti-boredom Month this year, visit the National Day Calendar. These include playing, learning, cleaning, and cooking. As someone who loves to read, may I also suggest adding reading to this list? Whatever you choose, be creative and use your imagination.
So as not to let you become too bored with my writing on this topic, let me end as I started, with that dreaded phrase, “I’m bored.” When next you hear or utter this phrase, consider making a trip to The Library. Here you fill find freely-accessible, intellectually-stimulating books, games, puzzles, programs, activities, music, movies and more. The Library’s boredom busting opportunities are endless.
Gromicko, Lisa. "Summertime: the beauty of boredom." LILIPOH, vol. 15, no. 60, Summer 2010, p. 52+. Gale Academic OneFile, link.gale.com/apps/doc/A233407095/GPS?u=pl3414&sid=bookmark-GPS&xid=8c989ee4. Accessed 3 June 2021.
Swain, Walker. “The Boredom of Summertime.” Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 94, no. 7, Apr. 2013, p. 80. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/003172171309400727.
Willis, Judy. “Neuroscience Reveals That Boredom Hurts.” Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 95, no. 8, May 2014, pp. 28–32. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/003172171409500807.