The last few of weeks at school are full of end-of-year projects, exams and some of the most rigorous coursework of the entire academic year. No wonder students and their families look forward to a brain break during the summer.

Perhaps you have plans for a road trip or a weekend camping getaway. As you exit the city, you may see a greenbelt -- an area of woods or open land surrounding a community. These natural spaces allow native plants and animal species to flourish, surrounding us with the beauty and serenity of nature, and providing opportunities for outdoor recreation near home.

Ralph Fletcher, a children's author and teacher educator, says we should open up "greenbelt" spaces for reading and writing. Greenbelt reading is based on personal interest. It is wide-ranging with low stakes.

Summer is the time when we can pick up a book without regard to reading level or final project. We can seek out our favorite authors, series or the newest bestseller. We can choose new types of reading, such as graphic novels and ebooks. We can read information at the zoo, parks and museums, and puzzle over road maps and bus schedules.

All kinds of reading is celebrated in the reading greenbelt.

Greenbelt reading is social. Books go viral on social media and get passed from one reader to another. Readers gather face-to-face or in virtual spaces to argue about plot points or discuss the evil deeds of villains.

A visit to the public library is a great way to get started.

This joyful, engaging kind of reading often leads to greenbelt writing. Informal, ungraded, whimsical entries in a notebook or digital environment are the kinds of scribblings students and adults fill with humor and voice.

Perhaps you will want to take note of the lines that are worth remembering in your reading. Maybe you will try your hand at a spot of fan fiction, writing an episode or alternate ending in the style of an author you enjoy. Perhaps your inner poet will surface with something to say.

It's all valuable whether you share with an audience or not.

If you provide the space this summer for reading and writing in the greenbelt, there is little else you need do to tend the growth. Just let reading and writing go wild, and the happy result will be sharp skills when schools open their doors once again for the beginning of the 2017-18 academic year.

I'll see you in the greenbelt zone!

Margaret Towery is the curriculum coordinator for the South-Western City School District.