As I've talked to parents this summer, one question I have often received is, "Where is our summer reading list?" My goal as a media specialist is to encourage a love of reading, and to me, giving students a prescribed list dampers some of the enthusiasm. I want students to see reading as entertainment. We don't have a list of movies or T.V. shows that we "have" to watch. We watch the things we like to be entertained. We need to look at reading the same way. Allowing our children to have total free choice over what they read encourages them to find books they truly love. The research I have read also indicated that it is reading the printed word that keeps away that dreaded "summer slide," no matter what that printed word is. So don't worry about lists, don't sweat the levels too much, and don't panic if your child is reading those "comic books" (graphic novels!). If he or she is reading, that is great!
This may seem at odds at what we do during the school year. Our bookmarks do have certain required genres, or categories during the school year. At the Georgia Children's Literature Conference in Athens this past spring I had the pleasure of hearing author Mike Artell speak. He suggested that we look at reading like going out to eat. Certainly, there is a favorite dish you always get at your favorite restaurant, but it doesn't hurt to sample other things from the menu. You may find a new favorite! During the school year, I do like to encourage our students to sample the menu of reading, and within each genre, the students still have free choice.
One of the many things I love about reading is that the definition of what is "great" varies from person to person. I couldn't wait until my daughter started to read so that I could share all my favorites with her. Unfortunately, her taste is totally opposite of mine! She loves any books that feature animals as main characters, which are the only ones I avoid! So she has read a few that I suggested, and grudgingly I read a few she suggested. I found I actually enjoyed them. At school, we have had some fun discussions with my older students about award winning books. The books that win the Newbery award are not always the students' favorites. And I must admit, I rarely read Pulitzer Prize winning novels, especially in the summer! I tend to veer toward quick, light mystery books- pure entertainment!!!
So I am off to get some of my favorite books from the bookshelf! Some have been read so often the covers are gone. Keep encouraging your children to read, and share some of your favorites!