I hate summer reading.
Because I really want kids to read in the summer.
Here at Beaver a number of years ago we abandoned the notion of required summer reading. Instead we urge students to read widely and provide a list of suggested resources such as Pride and Prejudice, Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs, Makezine, graphic novels, and blogs about science, innovation, music, art, cooking and more. In fact if you are reading this blog you are … reading.
So why don’t we require specific readings for students?
- Students don’t become independent readers by reading what adults tell them to read. In the summer students should be able to do what adults do; that is, use reading to develop and pursue their interests. If you start something and don’t like it, put it down and move on to something else. Ask other people what they are reading and share with them what you are reading. Again, that’s what adults who love to read do. With required summer reading students move down a checklist of books whether they like them or not, and when they return to school in fall they submit to a “gotcha” test or essay. I have a feeling that SparkNotes gets more hits in August than any month of the year. It’s a silly game and does nothing to help students see the real value of reading.
- For some reason the English Department is always in charge of required summer reading. Why is that? I could just as easily argue that the Science Department or the History Department or the Art Department take over. And this comes from someone who has taught English for a number of years; who loves Shakespeare, Marlowe, Melville and Faulkner; and who has a copy of the Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats on my desk. But this summer I look forward to reading Scott Dorley’s Make Space and Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn. I also am eager to browse through my Twitter feed at a more leisurely pace and pick off essays and blogs on a whole range of topics.
So let’s really help students become engaged independent readers. Stamp out required summer reading and let the real reading begin.