Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Required Summer Reading

As I said in yesterday's post about Summer Reading, I am not a big fan of required summer reading. YES it does get kids to read, but it becomes a chore and especially if the books they have to read hold no interest to them what so ever. As an example, at the school I am at now, incoming 7th & 8th graders have to read 3 books. The books for 7th grade are :
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Speare
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Holes by Louis Sachar

and the books for 8th grade are:
The Giver by Lowry
Tuesday’s With Morrie by Mitch Albom
The Outsiders by SE Hinton

While I like many of the books on the list, I can see that for many of our students they would rather have their fingernails torn off one by one than read these books. Liz over at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy has a post about Required Summer Reading, where she compares required reading to her having to play baseball all summer and report back at the beginning of the school year, what a GREAT analogy!

One of the media specialists at the Catholic High School in this area came up with a program a few years ago that she calls Aspire (she has spoken at AASL and other conferences about the program). Basically in addition to their other required summer reading, the students can choose a book from the Aspire list. A teacher (or coach, the principal, etc..) sponsors the book and at the beginning of the school year they have discussion groups with the teacher who is sponsoring the book. There are a HUGE representation of genres on the list, and many of the books are popular best sellers. I know in past years many of the students would choose a book not for the book itself but for who the sponsor was (their favorite teacher/coach etc..) and I noticed this year that they do not list the sponsors name next to the book, but I don't know why. I think a program like this might even work in lower grades (certainly for middle school) and I know it has been a very successful alternative to the boring summer reading that is usually given in Catholic high schools (see my post from yesterday on my reading TRAUMA in a Catholic high school).

I don't think there are any answers to this debate, but I do think that reading in the summer should be FUN for kids. My oldest son has never liked to read. Not for lack of books in our house, or for lack of seeing his parents constantly reading, or for lack of his parents and grandparents reading to him from the time he was a baby, at the age of 11, he just doesn't like to read. It breaks my heart! But yesterday, we were going to his brothers baseball game and he took the book Johnny Tremain with him in the car and was reading it. When asked, he told me he picked it up and it was really good and he wanted to finish it before school got out - WOW - I almost cried. This is what summer reading is all about, just getting kids to read something they LIKE, even if it is Sports Illustrated, the newspaper or a favorite book from long ago.

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