Midweek @ Musings: What my kids are reading this summer

About a week before the end of school my kids brought home their required summer reading lists.  I live for this day, let me tell you.  I love poring over their lists and offering mini-reviews to anyone who will listen.  Which is pretty much my husband and the dogs, because the kids make themselves scarce at that point.

My younger daughter will start high school in the fall.  She’s required to read 4 books for her English class, double the middle school requirement.  And the selections are much more challenging and mature — proper, grown-up books, many of which I’d read myself as a 40-something adult.  So yes, this was another of those moments when I realized that my little girl was growing up.  All students are required to read two books:  Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns, and specific sections of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology.  She also needs to choose one novel and one memoir from a list of about ten titles.  For the novel, she chose Child of my Heart, by Alice McDermott.  She’s already started one of the memoirs, A Long Way Gone, by Ishmael Beah.  She chose that one all by herself, even before I offered up my effusive mini-review.  She may also read Falling Leaves, by Adeline Yen Mah, simply because it sounded interesting (that’s my girl!).

My older daughter is entering her final year of high school, and is required to complete summer work in three different courses.  Her English class requires 5 books:

  • How to Read Literature Like a Professor, by Thomas Foster
  • Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  • 2 other works of fiction, from a list that looks like an abridged version of 1001 Books You Must Read Before you Die

Hubby and I spent a wonderful half hour or so looking over her list of fiction choices, marking our recommendations and engaging in spirited debate over the relative merits of each.  We both like The Grapes of Wrath; he likes The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where I prefer Persuasion.  So far the daughter is steering clear of this discussion and remains undecided.

I’m glad both girls are excited about interested in their summer reading.  I hope that helps them complete their assignments without too much nagging.  I dream of lively family conversation about their books, that continues to foster a love of learning (wish me luck on that).  As my older daughter examined her full summer workload she said to me, “It’s not really summer vacation, mom, it’s just slowed-down school.” Welcome to real life, my dear daughter — a life of learning.

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16 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: What my kids are reading this summer

  1. I am a terrible mother. I don’t require my sons to read, do math, write or be academic in any way during the summer. School is hard work and they deserve the break. And quite frankly, I do too. (Okay, I am a lazy mom also).

    And with high school several years away, I guess I can continue to cling to this thought of academic-free summers.

    On a side note: Your daughters’ reading lists are WAY cooler than mine were in high school.

    • Jill, I can’t imagine you’re really a terrible mother! Required summer reading is a middle school/high school phenomenon around here, although our library system has a program with events & prizes for the younger set.

      We used to create our own summer math work just because we felt it helped with retention. That went over well 🙂

      I agree about the reading lists. There’s lots more diversity, too, not just the dead white guy canon.

  2. Hi Laura,

    I arrived here via FB because I have great interest in this subject. I am surprised and excited to see Cold Sassy Tree on the list for a ninth grader as required reading. Of course, I read it as an adult because when I was in school, in the dark ages, we weren’t required to do anything in the summer. Very different now; and much better, I think. We need to catch up with the rest of the world and move away from an agrarian calendar and this is a step, at least.

    I engaged my niece in a “sort of” lively conversation about Rebecca, which we both read for the first time this year. It was on her required reading list as a sophomore in high school. Of course, at the time, I had just finished watching the movie, which my husband found laughable, being a 1940-ish b&w, but her high school teacher had shown the same thing as follow-up.

    • Great idea to watch a dramatization of a book. I know that watching the most recent film version of Pride and Prejudice turned my older one into an Austen fanatic. Your comment has inspired me to see if any of their reading choices have been made into movies.

  3. Thoughts while reading this:
    wondered how many kids took this list home and got absolutely no support for reading it;
    we weren’t given summer readings ‘back in the day’ but summer was always such a beautiful reading period so this isn’t onerous;
    it would be interesting to see what each picks, especially if it is something neither parent has read, giving them the opportunity to talk the book up to you if they like it;
    wondered if the kids do a summer book group to discuss the readings

    Good stuff!

    • Tui, I never had required summer reading either, although I did enter a library contest one year, and I took a summer World Lit course in college. It was not a hardship 🙂

      And as for their picks, I don’t care too much what they choose and would rather it be their choice. But I am interested and looking forward to hearing their impressions of each book.

      There are no formal summer book groups that I’m aware of, that would be a good idea! Last summer, K’s English class had a Google Group setup for interaction during the summer which they also used for collaboration during the year. Haven’t heard whether they are using this again.

  4. Summer Reading Lists are something which has never really caught on in the UK, to the extent that when I used to suggest to those who were coming up to university the following fall that they might read some books in preparation for their course I was met with looks of horror. They soon learned their mistake. Your girls are very lucky indeed.

    • Study Window, I believe your summer hols are also much shorter than ours (6 weeks vs. 10 or 11), and my impression is the children are less prone to that “there’s nothing to do!!” boredom that sets in here. The reading helps a bit in that regard … 🙂

  5. Those do sound like good reading lists; I especially like the way they’ve incorporated en element of choice. Seems to me that the same book foisted or offered is bound to be better received as an offering!

  6. Things seem to have changed a lot during the 13 years since I’ve been in high school. I think if there had been required summer work there would have also been protests complete with signs and picketing!

  7. Those lists sound interesting! In high school, I only ever had two summer assigned reading books (and that was for AP English)…sounds like things are getting even tougher. 😉

    Do you wanna scan in the lists for those of us who are total nerds? lol

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