Summer Reading: A National Tragedy

Summer reading: the phrase evokes dread and apprehension among students nationwide. Why? Split the words apart; “summer” brings to mind limitless possibility, endless days of sun, beach, and school-free paradise. And “reading” does not deserve a negative connotation, especially for those who enjoy doing it in their spare time. But put the two together? Bring out the waterworks.

It’s a volatile combination. So how exactly did this reputation develop? Fundamentally, summer reading isn’t a bad idea. It certainly has good intentions. The summer stretches out like an infinite Saturday and is consequently a wasteland for learning. Keeping the thought processes going during a long vacation may very well prevent our brains from turning to mush.

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But sometime during the evolution of summer reading, things turned sour. Perhaps it’s the interjection of academics into our carefree summers, or maybe it’s merely a lack of desire to learn. I have a feeling that both of these complaints can be addressed with one improvement: the introduction of new assignments, ones that don’t instill the dread that we students are all too familiar with. The assignments given to all grades and class levels go stale at a certain point. Specific assignments can only be relevant for so long before they begin to rot and a notorious reputation takes hold. An assignment must create a certain level of intrigue for it to be completed well and passionately.

When it becomes outdated, it becomes undesirable. When the assignment becomes undesirable, students do not complete it to the best of their ability, or they do so very reluctantly. Why must summer reading assignments be so rigid? Why can’t students instead choose a book and read it? The threat of “inappropriate” material looms, but at some point we, as mature high school students, should be trusted with the freedom literature provides. To prevent assignments from being a pain for both teachers and students, they should be replaced and modernized. I believe that summer assignments should encourage reading instead of instilling grudges.

Summer should be a chance for students to explore literature and enjoy reading; instead, currently, it is just a breeding ground for procrastination and apathy. Being taught to love to read is infinitely more valuable than getting credit for a reluctantly completed assignment. Teachers, why not have your summer assignment be the word “read”? Why not give us the choice of any Pulitzer Prize or American Book Award winner? These books will encourage us to think, react, and respond on our own. Let us explore our boundaries through reading. Perhaps, during our summer pursuits, we may just find ourselves lost within the pages of a book.

I can imagine a summer when I will not force myself to read. Instead, I will read for the sake for reading. Let summer reading evoke positive feelings synonymous with both “summer” and “reading.” I can imagine this better alternative. Can you?