Thursday, July 06, 2006

Book Clubbing

I guess it's about time to start what's sure to be a regular feature: The Most Recent Parenting-Related News Story To Get Me All Riled Up. Today's story is about summer learning loss, which is a fancy way of saying that kids forget some of their learnin' when school is out. The story itself isn't all that infuriating, although I feel like it leans a bit toward overscheduling an already maxed out group of American kids (send them to camp! and drama school! and a sports activity that somehow manages to sneak in trigonometry!). But it brought up my long-brewing resentment toward The Summer Reading List (which this article does not advocate).

I hate the summer reading list. And lest you think I'm anti-book, I'd like to point out that 1) my college degree is in literature, 2) I'm a semi-working writer, and 3) my favorite part of the movie Out of Sight is when Don Cheadle references the 1980's elementary school program, Reading Is FUNdamental. I'm a reader, and that's why I'm so opposed to forcing kids to spend their vacation time reading specific books. I know there's not enough time during the school year to cover every worthy book - heck, I specialized in American lit and I've still never read Moby Dick - but there's also not enough time for kids to pursue their own interests and read the books that may really speak to them. Some of my best summer memories are of wandering through a library, enjoying the cool stillness while picking out a stack of books based solely on my own tastes. No reports to write, no themes to analyze, just the pleasure of diving into a story that completely captured my imagination. My English teachers probably wouldn't have approved of every choice, especially during my Stephen King period, but like a toddler given free access to decent food options, my brain gravitated toward what it needed at the time.

Speaking of toddlers, I have a two-year-old, so I freely grant that my opinions might change as she starts reading and I do more of my own research on the subject. That seems to be the pattern with every other parenting topic I thought I knew so dang much about. But for now, I can't imagine wanting to take those library strolls away from her. Reading is fundamental, but it should also be fun.


RJA said...

I'm only making C read one book this summer, but that one book, ironically, happens to be Moby-Dick.

His wife said...

Please, like you've even read Moby Dick. If you had, you'd know there's no hyphen in the title!

andvala said...

I don't think the summer reading list is for children who's parents take them to the library just to explore. This summer I've hosted my nephews, who think a proper dinner is Ramen noodles and the only thing worth checking out in the library is the glass elevator. For these kids summer reading lists are the only thing that might drag them away from a 12 hour video game marathon. I think the public schools are doing whatever they can to combat indifference from parents. I can't fault them for that.