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Discussions In Defense of Escapist Summer Reading

Posted by Jen Robinson on July 6, 2009 at 6:00 AM in Literacy News
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JGS_WeekendReading.jpgLast week, I shared links and quotes from a variety of discussions about the power of social reading and the defense of kids reading at and below grade level. This week, I'm continuing my link-sharing theme, and bringing you a selection of posts about the joys of kid-selected summer reading (as opposed to required or extra-challenging books). As with last week's links, these posts are all from blogs that I read regularly - people whose opinions I value. I hope that you enjoy the articles. [Image credit: photo by Gracey, shared via MorgueFile.]

spitfire.jpgChildren's author Kate Messner inspired a flurry of posts and comments when she wrote an article In Defense of Summer Reading. She lists several "compelling reasons for schools to keep their standardized noses out of kids' summer reading". For example: "Summer is a time when our kids actually have the luxury of extra reading time, and if they're passionate about what they're reading, they can read for hours on end. We can't do that in school (as much as it's a lovely thought). But summer readers only show that kind of passion when they have choices. As teachers -- and parents -- we need to respect those choices." It's great stuff - another must-read post. Kate also includes a list of recommended (not required) titles for seventh grades. The list was assembled from student suggestions, and is an impressively diverse collection of books.

Here are some other posts on this topic from the last couple of weeks:

0470372273.jpgKate Messner has another brief post linking to several responses and summer reading suggestions from her blogging friends. In that post, Kate also links to a post of Donalyn Miller's (Donalyn wrote The Book Whisperer) from last summer. It's one that I remember, out of the sea of blog posts from the year. Donalyn pointed out the lamentable difference between the light, escapist selections on her bookstore's summer reading table for adults and the classics-heavy summer reading table for teens. While Donalyn's post is certainly still apt a year later, I have been pleased to see a stronger defense of escapist summer reading for kids from around the blogs and newspapers this year.

Librarian Liz Burns takes up this topic at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy, focusing on the importance of kids learning to make their own selections. She says: "If summer is about freedom --at least, for students if not for the rest of us! -- why not the freedom to pick your own books, including the freedom to fail at picking the right one?"

Teacher Monica Edinger shares a tongue-in-cheek poem about summer reading at Educating Alice.

Dawn Morris at Moms Inspire Learning says that summer reading should be kept fun. Based on the recommendations from her own kids, she shares "some books that have the potential to turn reluctant readers into avid readers" (for readers age 5 to 12).

The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance also has an article about summer reading "for the fun of it". They link to a June 25th Boston Globe article by Lisa Kocian about this, and also quote National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jon Scieszka on tips for getting kids excited to read.

Kate Coombs has a must-read post at Book Aunt about how even "college educated parents in our society" aren't necessarily doing the right things to raise a new generation of readers. She touches on our previously-discussed topic of pressuring kids to read ahead of their grade level, and makes a strong plug for regular visits to the library and trying lots of different books.

And of course, if you somehow missed it, Pam Coughlan had a great post about summer reading here at Booklights last month.

And one final point, which ties back to our earlier discussion about reading and grade levels. If you're looking for book recommendations for early expert readers, Robin Gibson at Bookmuse recently recommended a book called: "Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers from Preschool to High School by Judith Wynn Halsted (Great Potential Press, 2002)". Robin said: "this book is an excellent resource for those early expert readers discussed a few weeks ago -- not just gifted children. It also includes ideas and book suggestions for readers as they grow." A new edition is scheduled for publication September 1st.

We hope that you and your kids are finding plenty of time for relaxing summer reading this leisurely 4th of July weekend.


Dawn writes...

Once again, you have some great links here, Jen! Thank you for including Moms Inspire Learning.

I love the book "Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers from Preschool to High School," by Judith Wynn Halsted, and am glad that they will soon publish a new edition.

Another book I've used over the years is "Best Books for Kids Who Think They Hate to Read: 125 Books That Will Turn Any Child into a Lifelong Reader," by Laura Backes. It was written specifically for parents of children between the ages of 7 and 14.

I love this series of posts, Jen! Keep up the great work.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for commenting, Dawn. I haven't seen Laura's book, but I have heard good things about it. I say, the more books like this out there, helping parents, the better. And of course I was happy to include your post. Hopefully I'll help a few people to discover Moms Inspire Learning.

RC writes...

Thank you for this great article - and sharing all of these other Web sites.

As a mom to a toddler, I'm not living in the world of "required summer reading," yet, and that practice bothers me.

When I was in school, I relished a summer of choosing my reading material, and frequently found myself checking out some of the classics, just out of curiosity. I'm concerned that by forcing kids to read certain books, we are taking away that natural enthusiasm that can come with reading - the escape that the reading of a good book can supply.

My husband knows reading for enjoyment is a wonderful thing, but was really only given the chance to read required books as a child. I truly believe this is why he is unable to enjoy reading a book for pleasure.

I'm trying to nurture my toddler's love of books by letting him choose topics or stories he enjoys - and I'm hoping his current love of being read to will grow into a love of reading for enjoyment, as he grows.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for commenting, RC. I think it's great that you're nurturing your son's love of books, and that your husband can appreciate the importance of this, even if he doesn't read for pleasure himself. I do think that getting your husband to read aloud with your son sometimes, if he isn't already, would be a good idea. That way, your husband can demonstrate that he values reading, even if your son won't see him lost in a book of his own every day. I hear that helps, anyway! In the longer term, I wish for your son schools that don't go in for heavy-handed summer reading assignments. Thanks so much for visiting Booklights!

Mary writes...

I agree with your premise. When I taught high school English and we had a few moments for silent reading, I encouraged the students to bring in anything "appropriate"--no obscenity, etc.--including magazines, comic books, whatever they thought they'd like to read. My goal was to have students want to learn, since for some the curriculum was challenging enough. They seemed more willing then to do what I asked them to do with the required work. Unfortunately, school schedules don't allow much free-time for fun reading.

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

I would love to see more schools able to schedule free reading time, Mary. I think it could make a real difference. I'm glad that you were able to make that time for your students sometimes. I know that it's hard, with all of the standardized testing and other requirements out there. But I do think that if our schools could do more to nurture a true love of reading, students would be better off in the long run. Oh well, thanks for giving me positive feedback, from a teacher's perspective. I really appreciate it!

Kate Messner writes...

Great roundup, Jen! I think we so need voices like yours (and Donalyn's, etc.) to balance out the chorus of those who push "reading for the test."

Will you be at ALA this weekend? Would love to say hello if you are, and if not, I hope our paths cross another time!

Jen RobinsonAuthor Profile Page writes...

Thanks for the feedback (and for spreading the word about the post on Twitter), Kate. I'm afraid that I'm not going to ALA this year. But I do hope that our paths cross sometime in the future. Perhaps you'll come to the Kidlitosphere conference in October...

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