A Summer Monday

What are your summer reading plans?

I used to select books to read specially for the summer. For a while, I tried to visit some of the classics I’d never read in school. When my children were little, we’d visit the library more often in the summer and we’d all pick up books to read individually or collectively. But now, summer doesn’t differentiate itself for me so my reading goals don’t really change.

This whole thing of summer reading was a habit I built for myself, not really something school ever put upon me. With my own children, my oldest was given a reading list for his freshman year, but that’s the only time I remember any of my three children being assigned or even suggested to read over the summer by their teachers.

It seems summer reading has become more of a thing. Libraries have well developed programs that incentivize reading, sometimes even for adult readers and many schools assign or provide summer reading lists. SLJ recently surveyed teachers to get their take on the list. While the survey aimed at determining how educators felt about the purpose of summer lists and its selections, the resulting data was not presented. Much of the article indicated that choice was a popular idea for the summer, that students have choice in what they read. Really, ss summer really the time to force A Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations on a 16 year old?

When my children were beginning school, they had a teacher, Mrs. Barcus. (sorry, I’m not sure of the exact spelling) She believed in the power of play in learning for the very young; to let them color and play games to develop  fine motor skills; run, jump and skip to work on large motor skills and you know what? Most skill administrators had a problem with her method. Even in pre-school, they wanted the children in desks with pencils in hand. I agreed with and supported Mrs. Barcus’s method. I think learning to enjoy what we do is more important than learning what we do. Her method leaves room for cooperation, imagination, and joy.

How, then, do we bring these things into summer reading? Some children are not going to enjoy reading books in the summer no matter what material they’re provided. They’d rather build or swim or code. Will we ruin them if we don’t give them a summer reading list and just let them have fun? Maybe assign them to go outside and organize a game of kickball, jacks or jump rope with their neighbors.

Well, my intention here was to somehow segue this to the We Are Kidlit summer reading list, a much more modern take on summer reading. Sure, there are many instances where teachers, parents and librarians will like the list better than the young people the list is meant for, but we work really hard to provide books by Black, Indigenous, Asian American and Latin/a/x/e authors that have the best representation possible. We’re still working on this year’s list and hope to have it out soon. The way it’s coming together makes me as proud of the list as ever. I like that it doesn’t exist to add to the canon. Rather, to deconstruct it by given readers access to a multitude of high quality books. Many teachers and librarians look forward to the list every year. I wonder if anyone has worked with young people to develop a summer reading list? How empowering would that be? Not much of a segue, but I had to mention the list because I do think it’s a good option for educators.

Until then, I have a pile to the left, a stack to the right and here I am: stuck in the middle. Time to get reading!

What will you be reading?