Noodge 2 is going to be in the seventh grade in the fall. I can’t believe it. Like every other parent, I think where did the time go? Well, it went and it isn’t coming back. Something I’ll never get used to, but I digress. All incoming seventh graders were assigned to read two books over the summer and complete journal entries for each book. I’m all for schools suggesting summer reading. I happen to be a veracious reader. Reading for me is like breathing. I’m never without something to read and my “to-be read” list never gets any smaller. No one ever had to suggest to me to read over the summer or any other time of year. That remains true to this day. I think everyone should be a reader.
Here’s what I don’t like about this assignment. The books the kids had to pick from. Of all the wonderful books that exist in the world, these few were the best someone could come up with? Really? Note; I am leaving the list off of the blog post. And let me say, in all fairness, not every book on that list was a complete dud, but come on. There are way better books to read than the ones they could pick from. I’m sure the list is made up of some ridiculous connection to that Common Core that keeps spilling from everyone’s lips. I’m sick of hearing about Common Core. Let the kids read and let them read what they want. Are you trying to inspire reading or hoping to get your test scores up? And we all know how I feel about test scores.
I have a feeling the person who came up with this list is the same person who tells the students the end of every story she’s trying to entice them to read. Yes, you read that correctly. She says, “spoiler alert” and then tells them the ending. And to that I say, “why should they bother reading?”
Noodge 2 picked a book about World War II. She likes that time period and is very interested in things relating to the Holocaust. (That’s her Jewish father’s influence.) Well, she strongly disliked this book and it’s over use of facts. Honestly, I knew she would dislike it, but I didn’t bother to say anything. She wasn’t going to listen to me. Now, I’m sure it’s a fine book for someone who thrives on reading facts. Like Noodge 1, but since he’s going into the 9th grade… (Another aside, the high school’s summer reading list was fantastic. Bravo! They should talk to the End Ruiner. Just saying.)
There just wasn’t a book on the list that grabbed her. Sad. And you could say, “but Stacey, she has to learn to read things she doesn’t like. That’s school.” And you could be right. I certainly read things I didn’t like in school. The Canterbury Tales was one and to this day I’m grateful for Matt Terra, the boy who sat in front of me in class, who helped me through that unit. But I was a senior in high school. A little different. And let me add: IT’S SUMMER. Summer should be for fun, not weighed down by boring required reading.
Let kids be kids. Inspire them to read, don’t turn them off. Scour the shelves for the kind of book that lights a child up. One that reminds them that life is special, and dreams are possible. That summer days are filled with friendship, ice cream, and fire flies. Show them a character that defies the odds, but is quirky and funny, and the same as them. Forget about the facts, and the numbers. School will start soon enough. You can bog them down with that then. But for now, let them smell the honeysuckles in the air, feel the cold water of the lake against their skin, help them find a way to a place filled with magical creatures, adventure, and imagination. That’s what summer reading is all about.