Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Reading

We're winding down our school year here. I know a lot of people are already out of school for the summer, but we have a week to go. And then it's time for fun and relaxing summer reading, right?

Sort of.

Both of my kids have reading assignments over the summer. Nothing too big - they have two assigned books they need to read and they need to write a 3 page essay comparing the two that is due on the first day of school.

In reality, it's not that big an assignment. I remember having longer required reading lists than that, but I don't recall having to write an essay.

But, here's my question. Are required summer reading lists a good thing or not?

On one hand I can see that making sure students read over the summer is important. Reading is a skill like any other, that always benefits from practice and exercise. Children who don't open a book for the whole summer are doing themselves a disservice.

But is it necessary or desirable to require that specific books be read? Why not let summer be the time when students can explore wherever their interests lead them?

To be fair, for the most part our district simply has a suggested reading list for each grade. It's only the honors English classes that need to do the specific assignment.

But that raises another point: the students in the honors classes are the ones most likely to be reading anyway, why force a specific assignment?

So, what's your take? Should students have summer reading assignments or should they be allowed to simply read whatever catches their interest over the summer?


  1. Honors usually uses the summer to extend the curriculum by assigning specific books. Whether that's fair or not is a different story, but the kids didn't have to sign up for it.

    Assigning specific books to non-honors students is horrendous. My school gives out a list of about 25 books per grade that the students can self-select and if they really want to read something else instead, they can get permission. I think that's a fair deal. (Plus I made the list and it's full of high interest books in varying genres/reading levels, so I'm pretty biased.)

  2. So far, with the honors assignment: the first year my daughter did it the teacher was barely aware it was due. It's a district requirement, not teacher by teacher. There was no follow up in class. Extending the curriculum makes sense, this almost seems more like busy-work. Though like I said, it's not too onerous.

    I think a list of recommendations is a great idea. It helps points students in the right direction and may help them find the perfect book - one they wouldn't have noticed before.

  3. I think kids should be able to read just for fun during the summer. Maybe have a list to choose part of their reading from but also something they would like to read.

    When I was teaching (during the dark ages) we didn't have AR or summer reading, at least for elementary students.

  4. I sign my son up for the summer library program. Our library gives treats for how many minutes per week a child reads. The more minutes, the better chance to also win bigger prizes. This is a huge hit in our area. I donate galleys I get for the teen summer program.

    Personally, I think a child should be able to chose what he/she wants to read during the summer. Now if they're in a Gate program or Honors, then I can see reading the recommended books. Otherwise, I think reading should be for enjoyment during the summer.

    Kim Baccellia

  5. Plus I'm a former teacher that HATES the AR program in elementary school. Kids pick up fast that the more points they read equals better grades/awards. And the way the points are measured never made sense to me. For example, a Harry Potter book might be a few points while a chapter or picture book might have more. I know for a fact parents would tell me their kids would be upset with this system and cry, "Unfair" more than once.

    With my son's charter school, we don't have to worry about this program.

    Kim Baccellia

  6. Personally, and this may upset some people, but I don't think kids should be required to do anything during the summer. It should be a time of rest and relaxation. Never again in their lives will they get such a treat. Once they graduate, they begin jobs, or college. And even the two week vacation that some earn during their work years, pales to a glorious summer of doing absolutely nothing.