Let’s remember the pleasure principle.

We are approaching the Fourth of July which shouts “Summer!”—and summer hopefully brings the notion that NOW you can read for pleasure—read what you want and read for the sheer enjoyment of getting lost in a book.

I recently read that so much emphasis is being placed on “functional literacy” that it has left little time to read for pleasure. Literacy is not the same thing as reading, and Cottrell Boyce, winner of the Carnegie Medal for children’s writing, said this was like comparing health to sport. “One is something functional, the other is something you do because you enjoy it.”

We certainly do not promote the love of reading by subjecting children to assignments that are piled on top of required summer reading and, to be fair, not all schools heap homework on summer reading. Here is what Flannery O’Connor wrote the day she discovered that students were being assigned her work:

“If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction.”

Guaranteed ways to prevent Summer Reading, courtesy of Dean Schneider and
Robin Smith:

~ The reading list says three books are required. No need to read more.

~ That book is too easy; find something more challenging.

~ Happy Birthday! I hope you like your new television, iPod and wii.

~ Katherine Patterson? Aren’t all of her books sad?

~ You don’t need to read the Lightning Thief; let’s go see the movie instead.

~ Stop looking at those comics—that’s not real reading!

~ Circle every word you don’t know so you can work on vocabulary later.

~ Please, I can’t listen to one more thing about Percy or Katniss—just zip it!


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