A couple of days ago my son and I made a trip to our local library to see if we could hunt down a couple of books for his summer reading assignment from school. One book has to be about the Revolutionary War, and the other a grade-appropriate fiction book. We were able to find one of the books, and this is what we came home with:
This is light summer reading for an incoming fifth grader. I haven’t even researched the other books on Amazon yet to see what his choices are, but I knew deep down this book would be the death of me and the cause of much protesting and gnashing of teeth on his part. He reads well. He makes excellent grades, and frankly, he is a great kid even if he is mine. However, as most parents know, in order for your younger children to complete assignments, most of the time mom and dad also have to delve deep into the subject matter. And frankly? I don’t want to read Johnny Tremain this summer.
There. I said it.
In traditional summer reading assignment fashion, he has to read these books and answer several questions in great detail about what he read. He can turn this in for two extra 100s when he returns to school. I’ve actually made him do these summer reading assignments ever since he was in first grade. The good thing about this is that it’s all optional. He doesn’t have to do it at all. But in the past I made him do it because I thought it might reflect badly on us since I’m an elementary school librarian. I didn’t want his teachers to think he had a lazy mama.
When I was growing up, summer meant spending the day at my grandmother’s house playing outside, climbing trees, and drinking from the water hose. I had a little friend who lived next door to my grandmother and we made up dance routines, roller skated, and came in during the hours of 1-3 PM to cool off and take a nap while grandma watched her soap operas. I always made sure I stayed up long enough to see “As the World Turns”. I was never left with a stack of books I was required to read. I’ve even asked some of my friends if they ever remember us having to do summer reading assignments growing up and we just can’t recall ever having to do so. Do I think summer reading is bad? Of course not.
I finally decided today to return Johnny Tremain to the library and not make him do the summer reading assignments. If his grade in reading depended on it, of course he would have to do it. I know the extra 100s would be great, but like I said before, I also know that actually forcing him to read these books won’t be pleasant for either one of us. I’m also fully aware that sometimes we have to do things in life that we don’t want to do, and this would be an excellent learning experience about that for him, but what I found sitting on the couch two nights ago convinced me that it really was ok if he doesn’t do the summer reading assignments this summer.
Yes, this kid woke up during the night and chose this twenty-pound book off of our bookshelf to entertain himself with until he could get back to sleep. He loves reading about history and anything related to the military, especially anything about tanks. He loves humor and I even caught a picture book probably better suited for a kid a few years younger than him sitting in the floor next to the bookshelf. Goodness knows I honed my “fine” reading skills growing up on The National Enquirer (again, at Grandma’s house) and Family Circus books. In junior high and high school I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next Sweet Valley High book. Was it reading the classics? Not even close. But I was reading. And eventually, I came to appreciate reading “better” literature later on and fell in love with books like The War of the Worlds, Tarzan of the Apes, Fahrenheit 451, and many, many more.
The bottom line? He is reading, and that makes my librarian heart smile. I think more kids would enjoy summer reading and reading anytime of the year if they had more of a choice and not be forced to read at certain grade levels and subject matters chosen for them. And, who knows? Someday he might even want to read Johnny Tremain.