As the end of school nears (well, here it’s actually over) stories about summer reading loss and editorials in favor of a year round calendar start to make an appearance. Politics aside, research really does show that kids who don’t read over summer break actually backslide in their reading ability and skills. Enter the required summer reading list.
Here are a couple of books that appear on the the local high school’s reading list for kids going into their sophomore year of high school.
- Night by Elie Wiesel
- How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
- I Am The Cheese by Robert Cormier
Are these really books teens should read on their own? I’m not saying that tenth graders are unable to read the words, but the content is pretty disturbing. To be fair, the list also includes Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and students are required to read only one of the books on the list (there are about 20), while they can choose the other. But still. Kelly Gallagher, author of Readicide, discusses the problem of assigning a book like Night in his book- it’s a powerful book, but not a book I’d call recreational reading. I might be wrong, but I don’t think it’s likely to inspire recreational reading, either.
But there ARE a lot of great resources for encouraging summer reading. Your local library probably has a summer reading program (ours does- in fact, it has separate programs for kids, YA’s and adults), and if you or your kids aren’t intrinsically motivated to pick up a book and read, go sign up and you’ll usually get prizes for reading- free food, books, and so on. Generally the library has lists of books for different age ranges that can get you started.Don’t be scared to ask the librarian (a surprising number of people are).
There are also some fun websites with reading recommendations for kids and teens. I’ll just mention a few.Believe me, there are many!
- Jon Scieszka, author of many awesome books for kids, has a great program called Guys Read, aimed at, well, getting guys to read. I love the categories of books on the site! You can’t not, with topics like “At least one explosion” and “Mysterious Occurences” stored in their vault. As a bonus, right on the home page, if you scroll down and look under “Let’s Get To The Books”, there is a list of “scary stories”. Guys Read actually promotes scary stories for kids! Go there, check it out, and then check some of those books out of your library.
- James Patterson also sponsors a website intended to promote reading called ReadKiddoRead. While some of the booklists are outdated, the current reviews are great, and the site is geared toward creating an online community supportive of getting all kinds of kids reading. I’d say this one is aimed much more at parents and educators than Guys Read is, but it’s another resource with suggestions for all kinds of reads.
- Finally, some good lists for summer reading choices for teens can be found through YALSA, the American Library Association’s division for young adult library services, particularly their “Best of the Best”.
Oh my gosh, it’s a flood of books! Kelly Gallagher would be proud. Pick a couple and read them on your own, or together with your kids, your family, your friends… Just do it. And have a great summer.