Friday, June 5, 2009

Summer Reading

I know this is probably not a popular opinion among parents, but I have never been in favor of summer reading (or any other) assignments for kids. Especially for kids younger than High School. I am a firm believer that summer is for relaxing, exploring, family time and simply being a kid. There is so much pressure on kids today to always be performing - even in their leisure activities. And it starts at an extremely young age. I can't state strongly enough how opposed I am to this mentality. I have always been thankful that the school district I live in does not have summer assignments until Middle School (and even then not all teachers assign it). The High School does require the reading of one book (chosen from a list of 4) for every student in 9th through 12th grade. That seems reasonable to me.

Imagine my surprise when I read an article in The Providence Journal yesterday morning reporting that more and more school districts in Rhode Island are rethinking the assignment of summer reading. Some are choosing to eliminate it all together and others are choosing books that are more appealing to kids. I think that's a good start. Even as an avid reader myself, I can't imagine the torture of a HS student struggling through Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, Shakespeare or even Tom Sawyer without the the benefit of classroom discussion. The old classics that we all read in HS are certainly valuable literary works, but read on their own, they are just not accessible to most teen readers (or many adult readers, for that matter). Those types of books need to be read with the guidance and analysis that can only come from reading in a structured setting under the tutelage of a skilled teacher. I am glad that more school districts and teachers are finally coming to this conclusion. Now maybe we can reclaim summer vacation for our children and our families.

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