This may not win me many friends among the middle and high school set, but I'm a huge fan of required summer reading. I think students should have to do a little bit of reading over their summer vacation. I certainly think they should be allowed to choose at least from a list and the list should include good, engrossing books relevant to what they will be studying upon their return to school in September. As I have mentioned here, I've been sending out resumes to schools in my area in order to make my return to the classroom and the workforce this fall. When researching a school to which I plan to send my resume. I'm curious to see if they assign summer reading. What a mix we have here in New Jersey! Some high schools require no summer reading. Some basically tell their students, "Read a book this summer." Others provide lists from which to choose. Some of the lists are great, some are horrifying. My favorites are the schools that provide a few choices and a specific writing assignment based on the summer reading. One school requires students who will be taking senior honors or AP English in the fall to read Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman. That book has been on my to-read list for several years now. In fact, I think I gave a copy to my brother for his birthday several years ago, but never got around to reading it myself. Well, I'm not going to let a bunch of suburban seventeen year olds best me. I got a copy last week and devoured it. It is a well researched and nicely written account of two men involved in the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. One is the scholarly Professor James Murray and the other Dr. W.C. Minor, an American Civil War veteran and insane asylum patient. You would never guess that a book about the OED could read so quickly. However, I just can't imagine that it's what many high school students want to be reading on the beach this summer.
Yesterday, my kindergartner and I were running some errands. In one store he said loudly, "Oh no! We left the frog, the toad, the professor and the madman in the car!" It earned us some funny looks.