Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Happy Summer (Reading?!)

Way back when, in my small, private elementary school we did not have a summer reading list. There were no projects to complete. No packets of worksheets so our minds wouldn't turn to mush. The last day we cleaned our desks, received our report cards and didn't have to think about school until after Labor Day.

Now as a parent I greet the summer with a mix of relief (Yay! We can sleep in!) and worry (Okay, now what?) and the statistics of "summer learning loss" that are tossed around as early as a month before school gets out. I particularly enjoy the commercial for a learning center that shows words literally pouring out of a child's ear as he climbs out of the pool. The parent in me gets completely freaked with this information but there's this other part of me that's like...

Oh. Please. Come. On.

Whatever happened to summer just being summer? Family vacation? Time to goof off? Time to swim, make a sand castle, hunt for treasure, sleep in a tent, capture lightning bugs, run just because it feels good or eat ice pops that turn your tongue purple?

Not that I'm against summer reading - I don't like being the ENFORCER.  And while I never had a summer reading list, I usually read during the summer. Mind you, I wasn't reading Newbery winners - more like Forever by Judy Blume or the Flowers in the Attic series by V.C. Andrews. Books that I enjoyed - does it matter if I wasn't analyzing them? Answering essay questions? Thinking about deeper themes and meaning? I read, for the sake of - gasp - reading and I'd really like to raise children who read because they love it as well.

I do think summer reading is important, but so is goofing off. Make anything a requirement and it suddenly becomes a drag. A sure fire way to make any reluctant or rebellious would be reader push away from the table.

So Paper Waiters, what do you think? Is it more important to read from a classic reading list and work on a project than to read for enjoyment? Or can the two co-exist peacefully, especially in the summer?


  1. I'm on the summertime read for enjoyment side. My kids need a break, and I need a break, from the push of school. We both need less of my policeman ('did you do this yet?') personality. And when they get bored, and aren't allowed 'screen' time, they often pick up a book to read for pleasure.
    I could never home school my children, but summer down-time is 'educational' too, even if it's not curriculum based. I travelled to Arabia with Black Stallion and solved mysteries with Nancy Drew, not to mention social skills and family bonding.
    One required book? Sure. But three, with reports, plus a full math workbook? It brings to mind the 'Race to Nowhere' movie.

  2. I think one required book would be okay, but I certainly hope it would be an enjoyable one!
    And I would hope the kids wouldn't have to fill out a ton of stuff about it. Maybe they could just write two sentences about each major character? Or write about how changing one aspect of the plot would change the whole story?

  3. As the mother of a recent high school graduate (like last night -- yeah, that was me melting onto the metal bleachers in the ninety degree heat), I can't tell you how happy I am to be done with the enormous amount of work my son had to do in the past few years. I think it's worse in NJ than anywhere else, because the late start to the school year kills you in AP. The kids have to take those tests in early May, so they do have to get a jump on the curriculum over the summer.

    He does have a summer reading assignment for college -- every freshman reads Sebastian Junger’s “War" -- but I think it's just a reading assignment.

    I'm hoping he'll get some down time and learn to love reading for fun again. He was such an avid reader until high school. Then, it was really hard to squeeze it in, with school assignments, activities, and um, Facebook.

  4. Read for FUN! Especially in the summer. :-) All books are educational in SOME way.