Perspectives: Should summer reading be a thing?

graphic by Julie Wang

YES – Yana Kane

Reading is a major part of our mental development — after all, it’s one of the first skills children are taught. While most students primarily read for school classes, reading just the assigned books purely for a grade presents reading as a stressful and tedious task, often preventing students from developing an interest in books. In that sense, summer reading gives students the time and opportunity to find books beyond the walls of a classroom and understand that reading can also be for enjoyment.

This year, South offered students multiple pathways to complete their summer reading, making it feel more voluntary. One option allowed students to pick any book of their choice — the only requirement being a group discussion when school starts. Encouraging students to read for pleasure will benefit their mental health because students will be able to fully immerse themselves in their reading experiences without having to worry about how it will affect their GPA. 

Another positive aspect of this year’s summer reading model is the flexibility in choosing the challenge level of a book; students who want to push themselves have the option to participate in the 10 book challenge. For students who may have difficulty reading or prefer to watch something, there is an option to watch a show based on a listed book.

 Summer reading is helpful in getting motivated for the school year. Doing nothing all summer makes it hard to cope with the amount of work given at school, and reading during break can help ease students into a more studious routine. This gives students something to look forward to and a sense of completion once they accomplish an individualized goal.

Reading also helps students explore new genres and interests, and reading an engaging book provides an incentive to find more pieces with similar themes or narratives. For me personally, summer reading guided me out of a reading slump. During the school year, I was mentally exhausted, and I did not have the energy to read the books that I had been wanting to for a long time. 

I kept telling myself that I’d read them soon, but nothing changed. Seeing this as a chance to get started on my growing list of books, I chose Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”— an unlikely choice as I usually do not enjoy reading classic novels. However, knowing that it was for summer reading made me challenge myself and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I recently finished the book, and I loved it. If it hadn’t been an option for me to read a book of my choosing for summer reading, I probably would have never gotten to it. 

Summer reading is one of the many ways South shows the value of our education in and out of school. Reading is supposed to be an enjoyable activity, and trying a new book over the summer helps prove that. Losing track of time because you’re so captivated by a book is one of the best feelings in the world, and summer reading allows for more people to experience this euphoria. 

NO – Dana Berdichevsky

I have yet to meet anyone who genuinely enjoys summer reading. In previous years, the assignment was especially irritating because the school assigned books. Though the new structure may sound efficient in getting students motivated to read, it doesn’t give students the excitement to actually complete the reading. The only thing that assigned reading achieves is diminishing the love and euphoric feeling that students should feel when entranced by a book.

The point of summer is to relax. I value taking a break from academics to refresh my mind and prepare for the year ahead. Many high schoolers also use this break from school to focus on a job, camp or themselves. I remember heading into eighth grade when the book “Losing It” by Erin Fry was assigned. 

I had spent my summer at camp, hanging out with friends, spending time with my family and not thinking about school. Yet, it still lingered in my mind. Every time I stepped into my room, “Losing It” lay on my dresser, untouched, making me feel a pang of guilt. Thus, even for a simple assignment, my academic hiatus is intercepted every year when summer reading is assigned.

Despite my negative sentiments, I am surprisingly an avid reader. Summer reading should seem enjoyable for a person who likes to read in their free time, but the reality is the opposite. I typically read a book every week, but I have found myself reading a lot less since the beginning of summer. This is directly correlated with the mere idea of summer reading because rather than being an enjoyable pastime, these assignments feel like a nagging burden. 

You could compare summer reading to a common chore: washing the dishes; you stand up, ready to get it over with, just as your mom walks in and tells you, once again, that you have to do the dishes. Suddenly, all of the previous motivation you had to do the dishes dissipates and is replaced with irritation. This is because another person can take credit for your accomplishments, diminishing the pride that you could have felt after making an independent decision. 

The same goes for summer reading. When the school tells students they have to read, it makes many less inclined and excited to do so and replaces what could have been an independent and pleasing choice with one of utter laziness and boredom. In other words, picking up and reading on our own is half of the enjoyment, and summer reading takes that decision away.

In the end, many students choose not to or are unable to complete the summer reading, proving it the wrong method of encouraging high schoolers. The assignment’s only achievement is driving students farther away from books and seeing reading as an obligation instead of a choice. Whether a person likes to read or hates it, summer reading  is a chore that students should not have to add to their list.