The Summer Reading Dilemma

There are better ways to continue the educational process


Max Marois, Staff Writer

Every summer, students across the country are forced to read summer reading books they are not interested in. Often these assignments are not truly completed; rather the book is skimmed in the last few days of summer and then summarized with the assistance of SparkNotes, an online site that summarizes every chapter of a book and provides an analysis of the text.

If students are completing their summer reading assignments and only finding ways to avoid the reading, is summer reading crucial to a student’s learning, or are there more effective ways to continue learning during the summer? 

Upon doing some research, I found that one of the biggest arguments for summer reading is that many students lose much of what they learn from the prior year during summer vacation. Some estimates say up to 17-34% of what students learned during that academic school year is lost.

While this percentage may seem significant, does forcing students to read a single book they are not interested in really help them retain information from the prior school year? 

I asked Ryan Wandyes, an English teacher at Sutton High, for his thoughts. He said, “In my opinion, Summer Reading (on the high school level) should be used to guide students towards learning about something they might have an interest in while keeping their brains active during the summer.  I don’t necessarily think it helps retain knowledge learned during the previous school year, but as a teacher, it is a nice way to get to know my students’ interests, and skill level at the beginning of the school year.”

Scholastic has also put out some very interesting statistics when it comes to summer reading. According to their survey, kids reading zero books during the summer is on the rise. In 2016, only 22% of kids ages 15-17 did not read a single book during the summer. In 2018, that number went way up to 32%, nearly one-third of this age group.

For those who believe that summer reading is the key to continuous learning over the summer, this is concerning information. I believe a big reason for this is the fact that many students are not interested in their summer reading book, and this age group has access to resources such as SparkNotes mentioned before. 

The key to having students complete their summer reading is getting them interested in the book in which they are reading. One good alternative for assigning a certain list of books to read over the summer is giving students the option to pick their books. This year, my English class was given this option, and I found it much easier to read a book I was interested in rather than a random book that fits an assignment.

I asked Jared Allen, another student in the English class, what they thought about having the option to pick his book. “I think that because I could choose what book I read, it made me able to be more interested in my summer reading book. I happened to read All American Boys which was on the recommended reading list, but I think I was interested in reading it. The reading went by a lot quicker and it felt less like an assignment.” 

Another crazy article I read about summer reading cited the fact that by the time students reach middle school, if not participating in summer reading, they have lost out on several years worth of learning. This is based upon the idea that as the two to three-month summers added up, those who learned during the summer gained years of knowledge compared to their peers who did not. “But the few months of loss in reading skills compound over the years.  By the time children reach middle school, those who haven’t participated in summer reading may have lost as many as several years’ worth of learning and achievement.”

I find this to be a very flawed argument based on personal experience. I do not think that simply reading a single book you were not interested in as a child will make you gain an academic edge over those who do not.

To summarize my stance on summer reading, I am not against it, but I do think that the typical summer reading assignment is not beneficial to the student. Students are unengaged and uninterested in the book they are reading, which does not promote lifelong readers. There are more effective methods to assign summer reading that will help the students continue to learn.