Today's San Jose Mercury New carried what I thought was an excellent column by Sarah Pishko (originally written for the Norfolk, Va., Virginian-Pilot). In this column, Ms. Pishko, a parent and bookseller, laments the assignment of difficult summer reading books for middle and high school students. While she is in favor of summer reading programs, she asks if "revising middle and high school summer reading assignments (can) help reduce the declining level of active readership among young people". Her concern is that when students who believe that they don't like to read are handed relatively dry reading assignments, with no teacher supervision, they end up turned off by reading. This seems a shame, given the multitude of wonderful and engaging books out there. Ms. Pishko suggests a few updated choices. Her goal is to remind teachers and administrators to convince kids that reading is fun.
A young friend of mine is going to be attending a "magnet" middle school in the fall. Her school requires kids to read two books, and then answer summer reading questions about the books. The students can choose from a list of more than 20 choices for each grade level. And the list of choices includes many wonderful books, both current and classic (The Giver, The City of Ember, The Golden Compass, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, etc.). You can find a link to the full list here. Because the school took time to put together such an engaging list, I am certain that my friend, and her mother, will read many more than two of the books. Hopefully other kids will, too.
I'm with Sarah Pishko in hoping that kids will find summer reading that "grabs readers and holds their attention until the end." Check out her column for more ideas. And, of course, your local library will likely have summer reading programs, too. I know that the summer reading program at my local library is wildly popular. Happy Spring!