Summer is winding down…only three weeks to go. I just finished Round 5 of “do your summer reading project before I take away your phone, your make-up, your other books, and everything else you hold near and dear to your heart” with Child #2.
I thought about it the other day and I realized, not only have I been arguing with my kids about this for years, I’ve been fighting this battle since Hubby was in high school. Yes, you read that correctly. I distinctly remember fighting with him the summer before our senior year about his summer reading assignment procrastination. I, of course, had mine done the first week we were off in June, and he had yet to crack the book open three days before school started.
I realize now that this should have been a warning sign to me and that any offspring of his were likely to carry the “summer reading project avoidance” gene. Lucky me, both offspring are recipients of this gene.
In all fairness, Child #2 isn’t usually THIS bad with reading avoidance—in fact, when she went into middle school, all sixth graders had to read Wonder. Not only did she read the book in record time (allowing me to read it, too), she used her birthday money to buy the next book in the series.
It was a poignant, entertaining, heart-warming, and altogether WONDER-ful book. The kids were excited about reading that year, and I thought it was precedent for things to come. Finally, no outdated bore-fest…just fun and relevant reads for the kids to have them thinking even when school is out. After all, isn’t that why they DO summer reading anyway? To keep the kids’ minds engaged?
I Was Wrong
The summer reading project is apparently NOT going the way of the updated, modern novel. Nope. This year, she and her classmates have to read Animal Farm and compare it to the Russian Revolution…using quotes by dead literary guys. Yup. What a freaking buzzkill on summer.
She begged me the other day to help her with the assignment and I hated to admit to her that the summer reading book and assignment were crap. Me, the person who got excited when the teacher said to take out our silent reading books. Me, who read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in fifth grade. Me, who understands and appreciates how important reading and education really is.
Seriously, I was left scratching my head after I read the assignment, unable to offer her any sage advice. Which is another reason summer reading projects and assignments are crap. The kids have to rely solely on their parents and friends for deciphering the assignment—there’s no teacher to talk to or help you when you don’t understand it.
Seriously, we can’t find better books for these kids???
I mean, Animal Farm was written seventy years ago. I get it, we need to study history or we’re doomed to repeat it and all that jazz, but maybe couldn’t we put the heavy topics on the back burner for the summer? Yes, the kids need to engage their minds and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, but aren’t there more books like Wonder that the kids actually love?
I mean, NOT ONE OF HER FRIENDS HAVE FINISHED THIS BOOK. And you’re talking those honors kids that, like me, usually have it done in June. It’s hanging over their heads and they are avoiding it like they avoid changing for gym. Seriously, this summer reading book has brought a blight on summer. It’s always there, taunting them.
And taunting me, too. I mean, I’m the one who has to scream and yell and threaten. And why? Why do we have to do this? I’m pretty sure the choices of engaging, relevant reads for teens are endless.
Here’s a few GOOD summer reading suggestions
What about something by John Green? The Fault in Our Stars had me sobbing (quite like Wonder). Rainbow Rowell is another YA writer with great stories to tell. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone? AMAZING. You want something “old”? How about The Outsiders? Dicey’s Song? The Westing Game? Virtually anything by Judy Blume. There are literally THOUSANDS of books that teens will enjoy AND get something out of.
But no. Let’s assign them a seventy-two year old book that’s really NOT for 12 and 13 year olds.
You’re never going to make everyone happy
I know this…believe me, I know this. I should have this tattooed to my forehead and walk around with a mirror, just to remind myself of this. But maybe if we TRY to branch out beyond the dusty old bookshelf in the back of the now defunct school library and ask the kids what they’re reading, what they would like to read, and discuss come the first week of September…like a book club or something. Maybe then we’ll make summer fun again, like it was meant to be.