What’s On Your Kid’s Summer Reading List?

Let's focus on fostering a love of reading (and leave out the word required)

It’s the end of June and schools have shuttered their doors for summer break. My daughter is home from college in Boston and, as I walked through her room (actually, picked my way through the mayhem that is college dorm detritus) I saw something on her nightstand that took me aback. There, wedged between a half-empty bottle of Snapple and a banana peel was a book, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. “Wow, that’s a pretty cool choice for summer reading,” I thought. When asked about which class the selection was for, my daughter said it wasn’t for school. “There’s no reading list in college, Mom,” she explained with that you-must-be-a-dope voice. “I’m just reading it for me.”

How about that. Finally, a summer where she can read what she wants to, not something picked from a list that includes nothing any red-blooded teenager would actually enjoy reading. My daughter likes reading, but she had many classmates and friends who could all but get the minimum completed from the assigned list and never read a book, ever, any book, that was solely for pleasure. What a shame. Now they have so much technology that competes for their leisure time that, if a love of reading isn’t developed yet, it never will be. Instead, the smart phone and the iPad and the Wii and Netflix will suck up all the brain cells and free time they have. If you’re lucky, maybe your kid will have an e-reader or a Kindle stashed under the covers. (While I am a dinosaur and still enjoy holding a real book, techno-reading is the future, I suppose, and reading is reading.)

She’s taking a class at night and working an internship during the day so her free time is limited. Still, she finds time to read. I think what a shame it would be had she resented all those horrible summers of required reading so much that she never developed a love of reading for pleasure. And what did all that required summer reading accomplish? Wouldn’t it make more sense for an education system to, during the summer months, promote a love of reading rather than a mandatory exploration of subject matter that is neither interesting nor stimulating to the student? Make them all read the entire Harry Potter series or all the Wimpy Kids books or, hell, whatever they want as long as they develop the love of reading that can allow education and enlightenment, not for a summer, but for a lifetime.