Sarah over at The Reading Zone has just posted a rant on the subject of musty summer reading lists that I wish every school administrator, teacher, media specialist, and parent of school-aged children would read. Inspired by the summer reading lists that her family and friends have put in front of her, Sarah discusses the reasons why classics often don't make good summer reading ("Most of the classics require a good deal of scaffolding- the vocabulary is difficult, the situations are usually unfamiliar, and the context of the stories has not always been explained."). She laments the short, often boring lists that kids are confronted with, and in particular the fact that the lists are frequently dated, and don't highlight newer titles that are more relevant to the kids' experiences. She offers concrete suggestions for the updating of summer reading lists.
Sarah closes with a passionate defense of the joy of summer reading, and a warning. She says, "I firmly believe that miserable summer reading experiences are just one of the reasons we are raising a generation of bookhaters instead of booklovers." I agree with the whole post, but especially with this last sentence. Why do schools put practices in place that actually kill the joy of reading? Why are we not, as a population, doing everything we can to make sure that kids LOVE to read? Why are kids being asked to read books that they don't like, when they could be reading The Battle of the Labyrinth, or Audrey Wait!, or Cicada Summer, or any of dozens and dozens of other wonderful and engaging titles? This makes me crazy.
Sarah is not the first to decry musty summer reading lists (the Book Whisperer also has a must-read post on this topic, for instance), and she surely won't be the last. But I think that her post covers the subject well, with the right combination of passion and reason. I wish that I could put it into the hands of everyone who has influence over the development of summer reading lists. Of course it's already too late to change the formal lists for this year. But maybe we could start a campaign to take back the joy of summer reading for next year. And in the meantime, perhaps Sarah's words will inspire a few parents to take their kids to the bookstore in search of fun, inspiring, can't-put-them-down titles. Those books are out there. It's up to adults to make sure that kids have a chance to read them. Thanks for listening. Now go read Sarah's post at The Reading Zone.