Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Summer reading lists for kids: A seemingly good idea that turns kids off

I have a few illustrations for my rant today. Here's a Fox Trot comic from August 24 (obtained at this site):

(Click to enlarge.)

It was not always thus. I didn't have summer reading lists when I was a boy. (OK, papyrus scrolls were very expensive... but still....)

Seriously, I have always read voraciously -- but no one ever forced a summer reading list on me as a child.

My own children have not been so lucky.

(Zits comic from 8/23/08, obtained at this site. Click to enlarge.)

And every year we have a battle. I bought Youngest Son his required book early this summer. I placed it before him on almost a daily basis. I reminded him of it at every opportunity. I begged, I pleaded. I threw it at him a couple of times.

He did do better this year than last, though: This year he didn't have to stay up reading all night before the first day of school. He didn't finish until the last minute, though.

(Drabble comic 9/2/08, obtained at this site.)

And what else did Youngest Son read this summer?

Sometimes he'd browse the Sports section in the paper. He'd look at Sports Illustrated. But a book? Never.

Nor is he the only one of my children to do this. In fact, with the exception of Older Daughter, none of my five children ever, ever reads books for pleasure. I don't remember whether Older Daughter had books assigned for summer reading (although I think she must have in high school). Certainly, though, all of the other ones have had summer reading assigned.

I see cause and effect here. Summer reading takes one of life's pleasures -- reading -- and, for most kids, turns it into an odious, resented chore. Maybe because it requires kids to think about school in the summer. And who would like that?

Because my children have all attended Catholic schools, they've been required to perform "service hours." Like summer reading is supposed to inspire reading for pleasure, service hours are supposed to turn kids into the next generation of volunteers.

That hasn't worked either. Not with my kids. But that's an heretical thought for a different day.


Ralph said...

I wish that Foxtrot was a daily again...

Ours even in public schools had summer reading, and it was a chore for them (wait until college!). but out of assigned reading, our daughter found 'Catch 22' to be her favorite book, and she had re-read it numerous times.

That book was her reward for the 'have-to' assignment. Not so bad!

sari said...

You read all the same comics that I do!

Around here, we're lucky. We like to read. My oldest son has gotten better - it used to be a chore for him but suddenly he reads a lot. My six year old can read for himself now and reads EVERYTHING. And, I still read to both of them.

I remember the first time I went to the library and realized they *let* you take books home! I left with a stack of books so high I had to use my chin to balance them. It was heaven.

Jeni said...

Required summer readings huh? Our school -to my knowledge -doesn't have that now, nor did they when my kids were in school and definitely didn't have that when I was in school -way back in the dark ages. However, I never needed any "required reading" thing anyway as I almost always had my nose in a book. My best friend and neighbor growing up and I were frequent visitors to the bookmobile all summer long! Of my three kids, my son reads occasionally -usually only car type mags though. However, I did get him the book "On the Road" for Christmas -figured maybe since he is a OTR trucker he might sort of make a bit of a connection on some level there. My oldest didn't really begin to enjoy reading till after she finished high school but younger daughter has always been a lot more like me and now, even though she works 25-30 hours a week, has two pre-school children, both who are autistic, she loves to dip into books whenever possible. My older grandson though -age 11 -and I have an agreement. Grammy does not buy him toys, doesn't buy him clothes either (his mother is too fussy there plus sizes are difficult to remember) but he likes to read and agreed to the idea that Grammy will get him books for birthdays, Christmas and any other occasion. Makes Barnes & Noble love me that much more I guess. And it makes Grammy VERY happy too when I see my grandson enjoying and appreciating books!!!

Kacey said...

I remember telling my firstborn when she was four, that she would never be bored again once she learned to read. After first grade, she devoured about 100 books from the Junior High Section of the library in one summer. She now has a Master's+ in Reading Education. She raised three sons by herself, so she needed to be at the top of the pay scale. I think readers are born and nobody can make them fall in love with the written word with a summer list. I used to read with a bare lightbulb under my pillow when I was young....until I caught the pillow on fire.