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Author Topic: Summer Reading  (Read 881 times)

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Offline RaveledTopic starter

Summer Reading
« on: May 04, 2010, 04:50:28 PM »
I recently picked up a new bookmark from my local public library because those things get ruined faster than a good haircut. Rather than just have a pretty picture or some inspiring-yet-meaningless quotation, this one has a suggested summer reading list to get kids started. Lets look at some of their choices, shall we?

Call of the Wild, Jack Londo.
Grapes of Wrath, John Stienbeck.
Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens.
As well as the poetry of Wadsworth, Emily Dickens, and Edgar Allen Poe

Is it just me or are all of these authors a.) dead, and b.) pretty boring to read? I mean, you can argue about the significance of Call of the Wild or the message of Fahrenheit 451, but neither are what I'd pick up when I want to read for pleasure. Where are authors like Naomi Novik, Terry Pratchett, or Neal Stephenson? Heck, if they have to be dead, why not go for folks like Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, or Larry Niven? All of these stories are important but none of them are really fun. I mean, if a ten year old kid came up to me and wanted to get started reading for pleasure, I wouldn't hand them Dickens; can you imagine a way to turn someone off reading faster than to hand them an eighteenth century political polemic?

I've seen my fair share of "summer reading lists" before, and they all seem to be composed of the same dead, important, boring authors. Why are people so afraid to turn to living, exciting authors? Are these lists just made up by frustrated English majors eager to inflict their degrees on the rest of us?

Offline Lilias

Re: Summer Reading
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2010, 05:04:10 PM »
Summer reading, by definition, is supposed to be light and fast-paced. Those selections aren't proper summer reading for anyone, let alone kids. Heck, Harry Potter isn't summer reading for kids. I'd probably hand them some Lemony Snicket (A Series of Unfortunate Events), or Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl), or Derek Landy (Skulduggery Pleasant), or even Mark Walden (H.I.V.E.) and Louise Rennison for the girls (the Georgia Nicolson series)... But that's me :P

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Re: Summer Reading
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2010, 09:22:43 PM »
Poe wrote mainly short stories.  For someone interested in weird fiction (it's an actual genre!), it could be considered 'light reading'.  Imagine reading 'The Telltale Heart' or 'Cask of Amontillado' - maybe even 'Fall of the House of Usher' out loud around a crackling campfire, and you've got a recipe for squealing Cub Scouts.

Call of the Wild had a certain amount of adventure to it, so someone with that sort of interest might enjoy it.

The others listed - well, I'd honestly have to mark them as tl;dr (actually, I did read Fahrenheit 451 and The Great Gatsby.  The first made me just twitchy, and the second made me doubt my English teacher's sanity.  Sometimes, the yellow car is just a yellow car.)

Offline Touch

Re: Summer Reading
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2010, 10:52:46 PM »
Heh, I actually was required to read Fahrenheit 451 and Call of The Wild over the summer. With both choices the instructor wanted to select short reads that could facilitate discussion.

Offline Kisu

Re: Summer Reading
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2010, 03:43:48 AM »
Hmm I actually really loved Fahrenheit 451. It was a book I picked up on my own and read during the summer. I've recommended it to several friends as well. Grapes of Wrath is, admittedly, one of the most horrible books ever written, but I've had the Great Gatsby and Call of the Wild on my to read list for a long time. Then again I've always had a bit of a strange taste in books, but I don't think that reading classics is really all that bad.

I think the reason the library has book lists like that, even for kids, is to promote a higher standard of reading for kids. Compared to books like Lauren Myracle's TTYL, Fahrenheit 451 may be less interesting and fun, but it sure as hell is better writing. I remember going to the library as a kid and picking up stacks of those bookmarks. I pretty much collected them and made lists of books I wanted to read. I also remember that along with those classics they also had more contemporary fiction listed, and also fiction aimed at people of a younger age. Perhaps you picked up a classics reading list, or picked up one that was intended as books to be read before graduating high school or something?

Offline frecklessobe

Re: Summer Reading
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2010, 12:59:17 AM »
I have to agree with some parts of what you said Kisu. Yes, they are trying to promote a higher level of reading for children, but I would give that list to preteens and teens more than children. If someone handed me The Grapes of Wrath when I was 8, I would probably roll my eyes and grab a different book. I mean, The Great Gatsby was a great book, as were some of the other books on that list, but they were not something I would have read as a child. The only book I would even think about reading when I was in elementary school would be The Call of the Wild.

There are many great books out there that children can read, but some of the books that we sometimes stuff down the throats of children are truthfully over their heads. Some kids just don't understand the symbolism and themes that can be found in something like Gatsby. They don't understand the language used in The Tale of Two Cities and for some of them, Cities is just too large of a book to be able to read.

What I have learned with younger family members is that it is better to take on smaller books when young. If one says I am going to read this 600+ page book, they get half way and they lose interest. By reading smaller books, a child can become confident in their reading capabilities.

Offline Kisu

Re: Summer Reading
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2010, 06:59:23 AM »
I have to agree with some parts of what you said Kisu. Yes, they are trying to promote a higher level of reading for children, but I would give that list to preteens and teens more than children. If someone handed me The Grapes of Wrath when I was 8, I would probably roll my eyes and grab a different book. I mean, The Great Gatsby was a great book, as were some of the other books on that list, but they were not something I would have read as a child. The only book I would even think about reading when I was in elementary school would be The Call of the Wild.

There are many great books out there that children can read, but some of the books that we sometimes stuff down the throats of children are truthfully over their heads. Some kids just don't understand the symbolism and themes that can be found in something like Gatsby. They don't understand the language used in The Tale of Two Cities and for some of them, Cities is just too large of a book to be able to read.

What I have learned with younger family members is that it is better to take on smaller books when young. If one says I am going to read this 600+ page book, they get half way and they lose interest. By reading smaller books, a child can become confident in their reading capabilities.

My guess is that the list was probably aimed at preteens or even kids going into high school. Kids may have been an umbrella term used for the purpose of the thread. I agree that handing the Grapes of Wrath to a child would be pointless. Especially seeing as that book was difficult to read in high school.

I agree that some of the literature students are expected to read is over their heads, but at the same time I think it is a good learning opportunity.

Offline frecklessobe

Re: Summer Reading
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2010, 02:20:03 PM »
This is true Kisu. I never learned how to look deeper into what I was reading until I was given a challenge. I think that some of the books are paired wrong with age. I was made to read The Scarlet Letter in the 8th grade and then again in the 11th. I understood the book better in the 11th, and in 8th it was just too much.

Offline Avis habilis

Re: Summer Reading
« Reply #8 on: May 13, 2010, 08:47:09 AM »
Are these lists just made up by frustrated English majors eager to inflict their degrees on the rest of us?

There's a peculiar puritan strain of though that seems to persist in the States along the lines that time spent in leisure is wasted. I'm willing to bet at least some of the creators of these lists think that kids would be squandering potentially productive reading hours on stuff they enjoyed that ought to be spent slogging through Significant Canon.

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Re: Summer Reading
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2010, 08:53:44 AM »
On a more encouraging note, Borders is offering a summer reading program of 'read 10, get one free'.  I'm not sure of the age range, but participants get a form at the help desk, and a parent/guardian signs off on the ten books that they read (library books count!) and when the child has read ten, they get to pick a free book from a selection.

Even without knowing the selections, we're signing the little one up for it.  Merely reading 15 minutes a night, she can easily get through 10 books in the summer (admittedly, they'll all be Daisy Meadows, but hey!)

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Re: Summer Reading
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2010, 12:22:15 PM »
Poe is fantastic summer reading. I personally love Tennyson's Idylls of the King, and it's in small enough sections that it can be assigned in short bursts (would not assign the whole thing over summer). For a younger audience, Bridge to Terabithia and Where the Red Fern Grows were assigned to me as a kid for summer reading and I loved them. I also have not managed to get all the way through Fahrenheit 451, but not for lack of trying. Someday!

Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier was assigned to me in 5th grade and I didn't really follow it then. I have since reread it and I adore it. One thing that struck me was the descriptions used. They're so, so lush. They had better not make me an English teacher anytime soon, though, or else you'll have schoolchildren exploring themes of good and evil with Good Omens, and you'll have them checking out perceptions of reality and heroism with Neverwhere.

One book I could skip and skip again was Lord of the Flies. I'm back and forth on The Hatchet, too.

Offline Lilias

Re: Summer Reading
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2010, 02:47:25 PM »
They had better not make me an English teacher anytime soon, though, or else you'll have schoolchildren exploring themes of good and evil with Good Omens, and you'll have them checking out perceptions of reality and heroism with Neverwhere.

*snickers* I've taught Wuthering Heights to a class full of 15-year-old boys who lived to kill zombies (in the Resident Evil saga). They didn't know where to look when I forgot about their age and started analysing how sex and death are linked through pregnancy O:)

Otherwise, I'm addicted to the World Book Day scheme. I know the event is international, but what is done here in the UK goes like this:

Step 1: Commission ten authors to write an original short work - between 3-12K words - for young readers (meaning roughly 5-14 years old, arranged in 3-4 age slots).
Step 2: Arrange them in five 'twinbooks', each holding two stories of similar theme but slightly different age slots.
Step 3: Distribute vouchers in schools, to be exchanged for those books, which can also be sold for £1 apiece.

The works are short enough to keep even the most fickle readers interested to the end, and more often than not they tie back into series of full-length books. So if something piques the kid's interest, there's usually much more where that bit came from. I've been collecting them for three years now and enjoy them thoroughly myself before they pass on to the Spawn.

PS: Neil Gaiman's Odd and the Frost Giants was written for the occasion, back in 2008 ;D