My 25-year-old daughter was the one who came up with the idea. She was at the library with me and my mom this week when she sprang the new idea on us.
“Let’s all get out the exact same book and have a mini summer book club,” she suggested. “We can call it ‘pages by the pool’ and all read while we sunbathe or relax this summer and then have a discussion about the book.”
After suffering by osmosis from all those dreaded summers of her forced summer reading through high school and college, I was so delighted to have her suggest, rather than groan, over a summer reading assignment, that I dove on the idea. Don’t get me wrong — I have piles of books that I picked up here and there this year and looked forward to reading this summer, but the idea of multi-generational shared book reading sessions instantly grabbed me. It took the three of us a while to decide on a common book, with even the librarian getting involved to help us choose.
As luck would have it, when the three generations finally chose the summer’s “pages by the pool” book, the librarian informed us that it’s on the local high school’s required summer reading list. No copies would likely be available for some time because there was a waiting list of students before us. “Wow,” I thought, “thank goodness that summer reading lists have changed and they have now added contemporary books, along with the classics.” Maybe students won’t dread the requirements as much. I know many of my summers were filled with angst and arguments over my children’s summer reading list.
I have to be honest, those last few weeks of summer vacation at my house were often pure murder some years while my children were in school. They’d often coast through summer by bluffing how much they were reading, and then at crunch time, they would start plugging through the pages. I would bribe, threaten and practically have to glue the book to their palms as Labor Day drew near.
Most summers, I would attempt to read their books myself so that we could discuss and I could make sure that they genuinely understood the books’ content. Many times over the years, I would secretly question why a school would make a particular book required summer reading because it certainly would not be interesting to younger readers. Even I dreaded reading some and had to force myself to open them up. I remember thinking, “No wonder so many kids don’t like to read if they think this is what reading is all about! Why don’t teachers choose books that will engage the young readers and make them excited to read!”
Therefore, I certainly was happy to think that some schools are now doing just that. It took them long enough — I wish they had decided to offer more interesting selections when I was in school! Don’t get me wrong — reading classics is excellent training and definitely important. But the classics can be assigned during the school year. Summer reading should be pleasurable, with its main goal being to keep kids reading and deriving pleasure from reading so that they develop a lifetime love of books. Although some people may argue that the classics are pleasurable, the young readers in my house thought differently. My experience led me to believe that if you’re reading a book during vacation, it should be enjoyable and not feel like a form of punishment.
Now, let’s get back to this week’s trip to the library. First off, I almost fell on the library floor when my daughter suggested we choose a classic, one that we wouldn’t ordinarily choose to read. Who was this person and what did she do with the young girl that I used to find soundly napping with the summer reading book that she was supposed to be reading laying closed next to her? Surprisingly, I was the one this time who talked her out of it and suggested a more mainstream best-seller. Talk about the tables being turned!
Before I explain the outcome of our little library excursion, I have to give a shoutout to the brand new Ridley Township Public Library. It was only my second trip there since it opened this spring, but it is absolutely beautiful and certainly will be on my list to visit often. If you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, try to get over there this summer. You will be in awe as you walk through the door. It’s a real gem of which the whole community can be proud, and it will certainly inspire everyone who enters to read and visit there more!
After we made our personal book selections, the three members of my mini book club decided to add our names to the waiting list and patiently wait for our “pages by the pool” books to arrive before we launch our self-assigned summer reading. My mom confessed that she had already read the book a few years back, but she enjoyed it so much that she is ready and willing to tackle it again. That’s the way books are. You reap different things from them, depending on the time and place of your life. Different people may interpret a book differently, too, depending on where they’re at in life, their background, their experiences, their age and other factors. And there’s certainly a major difference in how a book is perceived when it’s free will reading rather than forced reading that is often followed by a test of some sort.
Whether your summer book list is assigned by school or work or you pick out the selections yourself, I hope you enjoy good books by the pool, on a beach or in a boat, lying in a hammock under a tree in the backyard or relaxing in your recliner in the comfort of your air conditioned home. The important thing is to make reading and visits to your local library a treasured part of your entire summer and not just a forced part of the last few weeks before the school bell rings, as a few people that I know, whom I won’t mention by name, were known to do!
Readers can reach Peg DeGrassa at email@example.com.