My son is heading into his Sophomore year of high school, and like most high school students, he has a list of required summer reading. I picked up his books from the library, and he grumbled about spending his summer reading books he doesn't want to read. "My friends said these books are really bad," and "They even smell old." It's a big topic of discussion between his friends on Facebook.
I have mixed emotions about this.
The Positive Side
- I can understand why teachers do this. Their teaching time has been whittled down, but their teaching requirements have either increased or remained the same. They have a lot of material to cram into each school year, and they're doing what they need to do.
- Required reading exposes kids to books they ordinarily wouldn't read. One of the books I was required to read (during the school year, not summer) was To Kill a Mockingbird. To this day, it remains one of my favorite books.
The Negative Side
- We consider summer to be relaxed, family time. Our kids work hard for their good grades during the school year, and we feel that summer is the time to kick back and have fun. Required reading is a summer storm cloud that hangs over my son's head. Reading is one of my favorite summer pastimes, but my son would rather be hanging out with friends.
- If kids could read any book they wanted, and write a report about it, there would probably be a lot less grumbling. I can relate to kids wanting to read what interests them. In high school, if someone had forced me to set aside Danielle Steel novels for the summer (stop laughing), I would've been very upset. Like adults, kids have different reading tastes.
There is a direct correlation between forced reading and my son's reading habits. He's always loved nonfiction, and couldn't get enough of it. Novels? Not so much. Besides the Hunger Games trilogy, he isn't interested in fiction.
When he was forced to read from a certain list, his interest in reading lessened, and then dropped off a cliff. Perhaps it's his age...I don't know, he's my oldest. My hope is that once he's able to read what he wants, he'll become interested in reading again.
On the one hand, as a writer and avid reader, it saddens me that my son doesn't want to read during the summer. On the other hand, I can relate to his frustration about reading books he's not interested in during a time of rest.
What's your take on this? If you're a parent and went through this with your teens, did they eventually love reading? If you're a teen, do you welcome required summer reading? If you're a teacher, am I on or off the mark about why teachers assign summer reading? Any tips for making it easier on the kids?