Summer Reading Soapbox

Back to school season (perhaps one of any manufacturer’s favorite seasons, aside from Christmas) has arrived. No matter what day school starts for you, there are innumerable ways in which you’ve had to prepare (whether you actually have or not, let’s be honest). These tasks may include shopping for supplies, signing a tree’s worth of forms, digging a locker shelf out of your closet, and/or, inevitably, summer reading.

Too often, when the words “summer reading” and “school” are paired, they are followed by a sense of dread. We groan, “Do I really have to read this?” Some people procrastinate, others complain in between chapters, still more simply refuse to do the assignment. Is this because the books are assigned, not read for pleasure? Is it because of the essays and projects that we know will follow? Or does the aversion come from the fact that the book itself is really and truly awful?

Whatever the reason, as a student, it is helpful to realize that, despite our teachers’ insistence that “we will refer to these books all year,” the accompanying assignments really only last for the first week. (At least, this how it goes at my school.) Some schools don’t even address the books in their literature classes at all; the work that goes with them was a “summer project,” due the first day of the course. (This was the case when I had to read Call of the Wild in sixth grade – “Create an art project depicting a scene from the book!” Cue the nostalgia.)

This is probably encouraging, then, if you are someone who chronically avoids assigned reading. “Oh, we won’t be focussing on this for very long? Awesome! Why waste time reading it, then, right?”

However, personally, the thought of not doing the annual infamous summer reading assignment gives me anxiety. This isn’t to say that I’m a hardcore “summer reading” fan – there have been books that I have hated and wanted to throw across the room. But I understand the merits of it, and I think that if your teachers give you books to read over the break, it’s the least you can do to read them.

There are so many reasons to suck it up and read. First, even if a book is boring, and not something that you would normally select at Barnes and Noble, you have all summer to suffer through it. It’s especially helpful to do it at the beginning of the summer, and make notes on the things you are afraid of forgetting. You don’t have to cram it down your throat; if you don’t procrastinate, you have all the time in the world.

Secondly, by not reading the assigned reading, you automatically condemn yourself to a week’s worth of bad grades. You immediately have bad grades to raise, and a teacher’s opinion to change. Unless you like the whole “dark horse, low expectations, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants thing.” In that case, you do you. (You’ve also probably been rolling your eyes throughout this entire post.)

Lastly, by not doing your summer reading assignments, you cheat yourself of an opportunity to learn and grow. (Don’t gag, this isn’t even the cheesiest thing I’ve ever written.) You may discover that a book you immediately turned your nose up at really isn’t so bad after all. You may realize that you like a certain genre more or less than your usual selection (book title pun, anyone?). You may learn something new – whether you end up enjoying the book or not. You can certainly learn things about yourself in the process.

One Reply to “Summer Reading Soapbox”

  1. Well said.
    A lot of life’s lessons I’ve most prospered from have been the ones I totally didn’t want to do, but said “yes” and showed up.


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