The Only Requirement: Read

I hate summer reading.


Because I really want kids to read in the summer.

A number of years ago, we abandoned the notion of required summer reading here at Beaver. Instead we urge students to read widely and provide a list of suggested resources. The most important thing is to read what interests and inspires you.

All reading is reading.

In fact, if you are reading this post, you are … reading!

So why don’t we require specific readings for students?

For two main reasons:

  1. 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 the 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.
  2. 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 taught English for a number of years; who loves Shakespeare, and Faulkner; and who has a copy of the Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats on my desk. This summer, I’m looking forward to going back and re-reading some Jack Kerouac. I’m curious to see if his writing still connects or if it’s frozen in time. In addition, I’m always interested in learning more about smart design so the Steelcase 360 magazine is a constant on my reading listing. Politics are another topic I want to delve into deeper — going beyond my morning news feed. And, of course, whenever I need a fresh idea, my wife Cissy has great suggestions!

So let’s really help students become engaged independent readers.

Stamp out required summer reading and let the real reading begin!

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