Unpopular Opinion: Summer Reading Does More Harm Than Good

My summer TBR pile is growing

Hello, everyone! Today's post is a bit different than my normal reviews or posts, but I want to share it none the less. Recently, I came to realize I had strong feelings about something we are all in the midst of right now, required summer reading. Every year students are handed a list of books they are expected to have read by the time they return to school supposedly to enrich the minds of students over the summer and prevent loss of knowledge. This sounds great, right? If only the execution was as good as the idea. Instead we, as both students and parents, are faced with more problems brought about by this simple assignment. While I see summer reading as counterintuitive to the purpose it was created for, I do believe there is a way for schools to work to fix this, a way that will work productively toward their major goal of getting students to read.

The Problems

1. It Has a Bad Wrap: Summer reading, while not as loathed as the elementary math packets, the words to most, including myself, inspire feelings of grade dread. As a younger child, and even now, I look at my summer reading books and think of one lost week suffering through a book or two before I can get back to books I like. And that's from a child that already likes reading. The stigma around summer reading sends a message that reading is bad/ a punishment/ a chore instead of promoting a love of reading. Honestly, it was doomed from the start.

2. The Books Aren't All That Great: I will be the first to say, there are exceptions to every pronouncement. This is only a generalization, but on the majority, summer reading books (and books taught in schools in general) don't make me love reading. Some have even made me question why I even like it. (My one exception is Markus Zusak's The Book Thief) While I read so many books and can take a bad book for what it is, one bad book out of a million, this is dangerous for reluctant readers or those who think they don't like reading. This also ties into a greater point, but, simply, if you only read the books you are required too and you dislike those, you lack the prospective to realize that reading is more than stuffy language, boring words, or a chore, which leads to a hatred and dread of reading.

3. How The Knowledge Is Tested: This is a tricky issue. Teachers must ensure the students completed their summer reading while also considering practicality. Many students are told they must complete an in class project, in younger grades, requiring arts and crafts skills or take a test the first week of school. Where the problem exists with this is that it creates difficulty in deciding when to complete the reading. There is a fine balance between fighting procrastination and remembering all the tiny details students are expected to know. This can make students feel they are being set up for failure and discouraged or simply lost on how to tackle it.

Luckily, I think these problems are fixable. As with much of how schools operate, I feel they've simply lost track of the goal, to inspire students to read. Even at the high school level, students should still be creating that love of reading. We can hope, by that age, that students will want to explore a wider range of reading material, but forming that idea is the most important part.

The Solution

1. Simply Require Reading: Based on the age of the student, I think schools should simply require a number of books read. If there is a choice, students will feel more inclined to participate. Students also have a better chance at finding books they like if it is their choice. One positive reading experience, especially at a young age, can set students up for a lifetime of reading. And, who knows, it could inspire a child to read beyond the required amount. As long as the book is grade/ reading level and age appropriate, every book a student reads works to enrich vocabulary and comprehension.

2. Make Suggestions Not Assignments: It can be daunting to find books when your not already invested in the book world. Connecting students with books they like is beneficial to furthering reading. If schools provided lists of potential options for students to consider, they might find one that peaks their interest. These don't have to be the standard award winning books either. Peer created lists, bestsellers, teacher favorites, or blogger recommendations can be good too. These will expose students to stories they find accessible and can identify with. So long as these lists are not a box, they can be very helpful.

3. Write Summaries At Home: Creating a simple written assignment also completed during the summer is a great way to ensure the child read a book and to improve writing skills. From basic summarization for elementary schoolers to more complex essays expressing their opinions of the novel for high schoolers, this opens up an avenue that doesn't complicate the reading schedule or alienate the younger kids who aren't crafty with posters or cereal box book reports.

This is really an issue I haven't been able to stop thinking about since I had a conversation with my friend about the summer reading books, and I declared "I'd rather people who aren't readers not read these books than use them as a reason to reaffirm their hate for reading," after seeing the summer reading options. This is an unfortunate issue that can be a nuisance for voracious readers and another reason to despise reading for those who aren't. To make it abundantly clear, this isn't a defense for not doing an assignment or not reading, it is simply my hope that we can start a conversation about creating a better system for summer reading.
This is the first part of a series of articles I plan on publishing. I hope to get out a list of my top favorite books for readers and nonreaders alike to read this summer soon as well as an article that tackles the wider picture that encompasses this issue with how literature is primarily taught from elementary through high school.
Here is the link to my Ultimate Reading List for all ages http://www.readingwritingandme.com/2017/07/the-ultimate-reading-list-for-summer-or.html These are all summer reading list worthy picks

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