Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Play a Half Hour of Baseball Every Day

The amount of people who don't exercise in this country is frightening! So in order to make sure we have the healthiest people ever, and to make sure everyone loves physical activity, and to develop teamwork, this summer all students must play a half hour of baseball every day. And so we know you did it, in September you're going to give an oral report about how much fun you had playing baseball over the summer. That way, if the two things you dislike most are sports and public speaking, we can get you to do these two things -- because forcing you to do it will make you like it. And will make you a better person.

What? You don't like baseball? OK, we'll give you options. You can either play baseball or volleyball. There must be something wrong with you if you don't like at least one of those sports!

That, my friends, would have been a nightmare scenario for me as a kid.

And that is why, when it comes to summer reading, I hate the idea of mandatory summer reading and reporting back.

I believe in matching the book to the reader; and love the challenge of finding something that a self-described "non-reader" will enjoy. And that may be fiction, fantasy, sports, non-fiction, graphic novel, or magazine. Yep, to me, if it's words, it's reading. I'm not going to look down at or dismiss the person who prefers to read science books.

I get a tremendous amount of pleasure out of reading; I love when I can share that. But if someone else doesn't, so what? We have to respect that different things work for different people. Reading fiction for pleasure isn't everyone's cup of tea.

That said, I also think that there are artificial barriers to reading, beyond the obvious such as dyslexia. We have kids who don't read Harry Potter at age six so get tagged as a "non reader" -- and believe that tag long after first grade. Or kids whose reading choices are disrespected, from the classic "yuck, comic books" to the equally prevalent "But he won't read fiction, he just takes out all these non fiction books, why won't he read a real book?" Or the kids who aren't introduced, for one reason or another, to the story that will make them say "yes, this is fun." And I will do my darnedest to make sure that those barriers don't prevent a kid or teen or adult from realizing that yes, they like reading, when the reading material is a match.

I don't think summer reading should be mandatory. And to the extent that it is, I think it should be individual, non-punishing, and persuasive as to the joys of reading. I applaud the schools who don't limit the reading list to a handful of titles, but instead offer hundreds of possibilities that covers a range of materials, including non-fiction.


My rant was inspired by To Require, Or Not To Require, at Educating Alice

Jumpstarting Students' Summer Reading: Classroom Strategies and Activities to Promote Independence by Franki at A Year of Reading has some wonderful ways in which kids can be persuaded into fun summer reading, rather than forced

Note: finding posts on this has been a bit tricky. So if you posted something about mandatory summer reading (love it? hate it? had to do it but tricks to make it fun for kids?) please let me know in the comments & I'll add you to the round up


Sara said...

I completely agree on the ridiculousness of forcing children to read certain books, or even a certain number of books over the summer, but I wanted to point out that at least some libraries are beginning to realize this and change their summer reading programs.

The library system where I work is doing a new program this summer where the readers (or "future readers") do a certain number of literacy activities. While some of these are "read a book" or "read for twenty minutes," others are "Go to the library and find an interesting book" or "Tell your parents about a book you've read."

Of course, we can do nothing about the schools who hand out lists of titles (I especially like it when half of the titles aren't even available in the library system!)

p.s. I love the baseball example.

Unknown said...

I just did a post about summer reading options, basically I posted about things you and your kids (or students) could do this summer to make reading FUN (I have lots of links to different places) and I mention Monica's post and why I don't like mandatory summer reading. I love your baseball example too!

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I think summer reading should be fun. Of course! Our school does huge long lists of books that the children can pick from, covering a variety of genre. I also commented at Monica's: And what about the parents? Could we require parents to read in the summer?

How about these ideas:
Support book clubs
Tree houses full of books
Shady hammock-filled glades with wheeled book nooks
Pool-side book mobiles
Camp libraries
Snack machines that also offer books

What about that camp libraries idea... every kid goes to camp nowadays. What if it became the usual practice to have half an hour of reading time after lunch, and every camp had a library... And comfy spots to lounge while reading... I would mind camp librarian as a summer job...

Lindsey said...

Hey Liz,
Right on, sistah! This summer, my libary is doing a summer reading challenge. It actually has zip to do with just reading for the sake of it. Each week, teens receive 5-6 challenges. They get to pick one and complete it for a chance to win a big prize in a drawing. The challenges are anything from trying a new recipe to researching their zodiac sign to creating a video to make a soundtrack for yourself.