Summer Reading for Teens

My colleague, Linda, sent around this article about why high schools have not been putting actual teen books on their summer reading lists.  Here is an excerpt:

“But it’s summer! Summer reading is supposed to be fun, right? Shouldn’t that negate the whole “are these books literature?” debate? That depends on whom you ask. Many teachers and librarians have been moving toward the notion that summer reading should, above all else, be designed to keep kids reading (Period.) and that it should therefore be less about educational value than about sheer pleasure. But others believe the intent of summer reading is to keep kids in “learning mode” or keep them “working” throughout the summer, so that the transition back to the work of the school year comes as less of a shock.”

Every summer I see teens and even college students clutching massive lists of the ‘classics’ they must spend their summers reading through.  I admire this undertaking for sure, but I have helped everyone from the eager reader to the disinterested to the incredulous find copies of Animal Farm, Anna Karenina and The Old Man and the Sea.  Many of those readers are going to discover their newfound love for Orwell or Tolstoy or Hemingway, but just as often it will feel like a forced march through dusty tomes.

Why isn’t the enjoyment part more important?  One of the things I love about library summer reading programs is that they celebrate leisure reading.  Read whatever you want and get credit for it–get a prize, a sticker, your name on the wall, your review on the blog.

And what, exactly, do these students do with all of these books they have supposedly read over the summer?  Is there a quiz?  Do they simply fill out a bubble-form (in my mind one of the worst modern inventions in educational history) to indicate which of the 100 books they have finished?  Are they ever asked to articulate which books they actually liked or didn’t like and why?  What, exactly, is the aim or the point of this undertaking?  Again, I speak as a librarian, who bears a huge amount of respect for teachers and the work that they do.

But I wonder how we can enter into a conversation together to inform educational institutions that there are some new ‘classic’ teen/YA books out there that should totally make those lists, too.  I don’t advocate doing away with the lists, necessarily.  But what can we do to shake them up a little, make them fun?  Any teens out there, let us know what you think!



About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

Post a Comment