Why I Hate Summer Reading Lists
The Dreaded Summer Reading Program
I am a reader. Walking into any bookstore or the local library physically and instantly changes me; I am suddenly intoxicated, woozy, tingling with the sight …the feel…the smell of all those gorgeous books just waiting to be swallowed up. My idea of a perfect vacation day is curling up on my sofa or sitting on the beach with a good book in hand and reading, uninterrupted, for several hours, transported to far away lands and into the challenges and psyche of other people’s lives. I am also a writer and a psychologist, so I suppose given my career and addiction choices one would think that I am a champion of summer reading for children, but I am not. I’m not because the fun loving-let it all hang out-rules to the wind-summer is here -part of me, hates it.
I don’t want to do it anymore. For ten long months I have been the homework police demanding my children sit at the table and finish their schoolwork when they would rather be outside with their friends. I worked hard to get them through the mountainous amounts of school projects and homework assignments and studying for tedious tests and I am tired of it. Hell,I need a break! I don’t want to be the whip cracker anymore. I want to throw my hands up in the air and dash out the door yelling, “Last one in the pool is a rotten egg!”
Summer is only eight short weeks. Eight weeks to shake it all off and have some fun. Eight short weeks to let loose and swing from branches into the deep waters of the lake, run through cold sprinklers and hunt for skittery crabs at the beach. Eight weeks to learn how to use a jackknife, put a worm on a hook, and build a fort from leaves and twigs. Eight weeks to take meandering bike rides, have lemonade stands and chase the ice cream man. Eight weeks to play whiffle ball, have a neighborhood game of flashlight tag, go night swimming, catch fireflies and finally fall down, exhausted on the bed, or the couch, or the floor nestled next to sweaty siblings and sleepy friends. Eight short weeks to hopefully become a bit bored, to allow minds to open up and let imaginations soar. And eight short weeks to finish required summer reading.
This short summer our school district has dictated that my middle school children are to read three books.
Three books in eight weeks.
I know adults; successful, happy, seemingly normal adults, who don’t read that many books in a year.
Now, I know there are many children who, like me, love to read and these children will complete this assignment quickly. To them time spent with a book is relaxing and even fun.These children will choose to use their downtime sitting on the porch swing, book in hand, reading away and kudos to them, that’s great! But,there are also many, many children who do not embrace reading and for them, summer reading is a chore, or worse, a punishment.
Aside from those children who need extra support around reading, I am not even really certain of the point behind this summer homework. Beyond a perfunctory quiz or a short one page essay, are these books even incorporated into the school’s curriculum come September? Rarely. Does the school believe that my teenagers are going to forget how to read in only eight weeks? Seems unlikely. Does the school really think that mandatory reading will make readers out of nonreaders? Highly doubtful. I have five children, some are readers and some are not. I didn’t raise them any differently, reading more to one than the other, it’s just how they are wired; one of my children will choose to read as often as he can, while another would rather not read anything beyond a short article in a sports magazine. Asking this child to sit and read a novel on a sunny summer day with the sounds of the neighborhood rising through the window is akin to torture..for both of us.
Believe me, I would love it if all of my children were avid readers; if on a summer day they sat quietly in the shade of our leafy maple tree with a book in their hand, but this is just not who they are and to try and make them embrace something they don’t want to do, well we all know how that goes. Forced summer reading does not make readers out of non-reader…although I must say, it does encourage some rather creative avoidance techniques.
The bottom line here is I resent cutting into my children’s well-earned, unstructured, shortened-already vacation just so someone, somewhere, can check off a box that the school has met their reading requirement. Downtime for families is scarce these days, childhood is short and our precious time spent just hanging out together; laughing, playing and enjoying one another is unfortunately becoming increasingly scarce as jobs and schools place more and more extraneous demands on us. I say it’s time we reclaim summer and give our families a real break. Let those who want to read, read away, and those who don’t, well let them sail away to distant lands in whatever way they please.
About Anne Sawan: I am a mother of five, a psychologist and author. I have four books published through MeeGenuis (The Halloween Costume, The Baseball Game, When Santa Was Small and The Great Adventure Brothers) as well as having written several articles for Adoptive Families, Adoption Today and Brain-Child Magazine. I also recently won the International Picture Book Contest held by Inclusive Works for my book, “What Can Your Grandmother Do?” which will be published by Clavis Publishing some time this year. You can find more at Anne’s site!
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