Friday, June 8

Summer reading

Last week the Times ran a humorous piece about the books that schools assign as summer reading. The author, essayist Joe Queenan, thinks most books students are assigned are kitschy and insubstantial or ponderous and boring, and he's skeptical that any of them help instill a love of reading in young people.

He writes:

Forty years after being pistol-whipped by Thomas Hardy, I am amazed that the summer reading list continues to exist. In a society that has dispensed with every other laudable cultural more, it bewilders me that students still allow adults to wreck their summer vacations by forcing them to feast on the passé cheekiness of “The Catcher in the Rye” or on mind-numbing kitsch like “The Alchemist.” I’m not saying it is necessarily a bad thing that schools require students to read books during the summer: culture, like vitamins, works best when imposed rather than selected. I am simply recording my amazement that in an age when urban high schools use weapons detectors to check for handguns, educators still make kids read “The Red Badge of Courage.”
Many high schools in the city require summer reading, and we've noticed mostly quality literature on reading lists. Unlike Queenan, we think kids can really benefit from reading "The Catcher in the Rye" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" (another object of his scorn). Of course, if kids don't complete their assigned reading, it doesn't really matter what is assigned.

What has been your family's experience with summer reading? Have your kids had to do it? How much teeth-pulling did it take to get the pages read -- or did the books sit around unopened all summer?

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