The thermometer reads 32 degrees, but to me it feels like it’s in the high eighties. I’m thinking about sitting on the beach or the deck with a good book and a cold drink. For the past few days, I’ve been working on Inly’s summer reading list so I’m imagining our students selecting a few of these books to tuck into their beach bags. As anyone who has compiled one of these lists knows, it is tricky business. And these days may even raise a few questions. Over the past couple of years, I’ve read many articles questioning the need for summer reading lists. Some of the articles claim that the lists kill the joy of reading and that some of the books are too challenging for students to read (successfully) without teacher support.
I understand the concerns, but each year as I compile the list, my belief in their worth is strengthened. Of course, books should not be included that are too complex for students to read independently. There should be many genres from which to choose so that every student finds books that interest them. And I feel strongly that the books on the list should be inspiring and enjoyable.
The reason I believe in the summer reading list is that with so much competing for children’s time and attention, many of them define their interests quite narrowly at a very early age. I talk with kids who have decided what they like (and don’t like) by the age of eight, and since there is so much available on-line, they aren’t too motivated to explore new topics. This is especially sad when they are at such a receptive age. It is so important for kids to leave the self directed world of the internet and to enter another person’s imgaination and view. There is nothing more rewarding than when a student reads something new and says, “I would never have read this book if it wasn’t on the list, and I loved it.”
Summer is a time for both physical and mental escape, and kids, like adults, deserve time to imagine and explore. I think of that as I add books to the list – hopeful that a student will read poetry or learn about sea turtles or follow the adventures of the Penderwicks.