Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More On Summer Reading Lists

There seems to be more going on with the Summer Reading Requirements this summer. I read at Fuse #8 about a school district that suspended 519 students on the first day of school for not completing their Summer Reading and assignment. They were happy because this was down almost 50% from last year's suspensions.

The interesting thing was --of the 519 students, all but about 93 came back the next day with their reading assignments completed. So, do we really think those kids went home and in one day completed a summer's worth of reading?

I did a bit of investigating and found the school district's website. They have a good goal. There is big research out there that supports the idea that kids need to read in the summer. I totally agree with that. So, this district had signs all over town, reminding kids of their Summer Reading. So, from what I read, if a chid went to a local restaurant, there might be a sign reminding them that they had to read over the summer.

The teachers seemed to be very smart about this assignment. From the lists and assignments I found, they really worked hard to help kids have choice in what they read, inviting them to read books on the list or to find their own. They also gave choice within the project. Although the district announced that the assignment should be turned in on the first day of school and would count as a big test grade, the teachers created good lists and thoughtful projects.

I think where we are going wrong with all of these summer reading lists is in the message to students that you have to "work" in the summer too. It can't be good to have kids thinking that they "have to" read and that reading is "work". Instead, as teachers and administrators, we should help kids discover the amazing experience that reading is, so that they use the summer to catch up on the books that they have been dying to read. I would think a good goal would be for kids to get excited about an event like the 48 hour book challenge sponsored by the brilliant Mother Reader. How many of us were extremely excited about the idea of giving 48 hours to ONLY reading? This is the kind of reader I think we want to come out of our schools. Imagine if our high schoolers were reading for 48 hours, writing about their reading, to a real audience, as they went. Maybe if we spent our time helping kids find the right books so they become readers during the school year, maybe if instead of assignments, kids could meet over the summer to discuss and share the great books they found, we could keep kids reading over the summer AND help them become lifelong readers.

I think so often, we are trying to get kids to "prove" that they read. In my lifetime, I have turned in book reports on books I hadn't read that scored higher grades than reports on books I had read. It is easy to "fake" these assignments that are designed to "prove" that you read. What messages are we giving our children if they think reading is such an awful thing that we are going to check to see whether or not they really did it?

3 comments:

  1. Happy BlogDay! http://yzocaet.blogspot.com/2006/08/happy-blogday.html

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  2. What an excellent post! I completely agree about helping kids to find the right books, and enjoy reading, rather than treating summer reading as a chore. I'm not sure if a 48-hour book challenge would work for people not already wild about reading, but I think it would be worth a try. Maybe there's a potential linkage between this suggestion and one that I read at Arthur Slade's website today that proposed doing book-related projects on MySpace pages, and via podcasts. I'm going to include this in my weekly round-up, out later today. Thanks!

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  3. I've been thinking about this, and I think part of the problem is the tension between wanting kids to read "for fun", and wanting kids to have certain reading skills, with "fun" not factoring into the equation. I hear from some that summer reading is so skills will be maintained over the summer (again, no fun there.) Perhaps the resolution is for summer to be "fun" and hope the skills go along with that, and concentrate more on the skills during the school year?

    (Not to mention that, if there is a concern for reading skills that will be useful when a person is "grown up", the emphasis on reading should be more non-fiction than fiction: newspaper articles to be able to determine bias or accuracy, business writing, etc.)

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