Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Assigned Summer Reading

We started summer vacation two weeks ago, and my kids have been constantly busy since then. One of the things they are busy with is summer homework. Some of this homework comes in the form of assigned reading.

They complain heartily about this summer homework, and quite frankly, I'm right there with them. (These are not assignments that can be done in a day and gotten out of the way, these will take the summer to complete.) All school year they have to read what other people are telling them to read. They'd rather read things of their own choosing, maybe discover something new. But now, even during the summer there is hardly time for that.

I understand the purpose behind summer reading assignments, I really do. But the more you make reading seem like work the more you make it something that reluctant readers are going to resist even more. Eager readers will read regardless if something is assigned or not, so I'm assuming that, in general, summer reading assignments are aimed at kids who might not read otherwise.

Can you imagine if there were regular summer "art" assignments? (And I'm not talking for a specialized art school). Parents having to ask their child: did you draw a picture today? Remember you have to draw two today to make up for not doing one yesterday.

That would suck all the joy out of drawing for a kid who likes to draw, and would be painful and annoying for a child who doesn't like to draw. You want the kid to draw, turn off the TV for awhile every day and put crayons and paper in their path. They will draw. The same is true of reading. Stop making it work. Let it be fun. Let kids read what entertains them: maybe it's a comic book or a record book, or the sports pages, or endless biographies. But don't make it a chore. No one likes doing chores.

In the meantime, in my house, my son is enjoying the first of his books. My daughter however, while plodding through the first book, doesn't care for it. She rebels by reading Hemingway instead of her AP assignment. She tells me she loves FAREWELL TO ARMS, and can totally see how Hemingway ushered in a new style of writing, even though, it is still in the rough stages in his books.

See, it doesn't have to be an assignment for them to learn something.


  1. Our kids have to do two book reports. One has to be one of the books the school chooses-- and only one of the books is any good (The Cricket in Times Square?? REALLY??? He chose The Chocolate Touch instead), and the other is his own choice. Thank goodness he's nearly done.

  2. Our ES wanted me to continue doing math,reading, and writing this summer. Me? I'm burned out from this last year of homeschooling. Son's like, "I don't get why you're burned out." Uh, hello, all the required tests, math, reading we had to do to help get our STAR scores up. This summer I said bag it and ended up having son 'chose' which camps he wanted to go to. He also signed up for art classes. Both of us need that break. The educator in me knows that it's 'ok' to let kids take a break. Shoving AR and other academics down their throats doesn't help. I remember my master teacher telling us that those who over schedule academics year round on children end up with burnt out kiddos by middle school. I taught in a year round school for 5 years and yes we saw some gains but not huge ones. Plus, the teachers were burned out.