Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Dreaded Summer Reading List

Every year at the end of school the kids are given a summer reading list. In high school, the list isn't that long, and the kids have one required book, one book they choose from the list, and one book of their own choice. This year's require books are, for the Girl Nickel and Dimed, and for the Boy Passing. The Boy's book is about a black woman that passed for white and is about 100 pages long, if that. The girl's book is a non-fiction account of a woman who took various minimum wage jobs around the country and how she lives on that limited income.

The Girl chose to read Girl with a Pearl Earring as her book off the list. We also got her books on tape, because reading is very difficult for her due to her vision problems. Even with the help of a developmental opthamologist, she's not a fluent reader and she's achingly slow. Her third choice might be The Lovely Bones. She likes a sad book, my Girl. They don't get much sadder than that.

The Boy will read Slaughterhouse V off the list, as he's a big Vonnegut fan, and then for his individual choice, the last Harry Potter. That doesn't seem quite fair to me, because it's such an easy book, but it counts.

I support reading over the summer. I'm happy to see my kids curled up with a good book. I wish they would read more overall, but that's because I'm such a reader and I have a hard time understanding why anyone wouldn't want to read. The reading list offers what I consider to be a decent choice of books for many different tastes. But I have to wonder about some of the selections. Clan of the Cave Bear? Is that considered good literature? I read it when it came out many years ago, and if I recall correctly, it wasn't even in trade format. Reviving Orphelia. Um, is that a book that 15 year old girls want or need to read? I always considered that a parenting book. The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency? Isn't that just a tad too easy for a high school list?

I don't know. When the Girl and I went over her list, we had a terrible time deciding what she would read. At first she choose White Oleander because she saw the movie and liked it. The Girl has a very difficult time following plots in books and movies, and often has to see films multiple times before she understands it. Books, well let's just say that she's always struggling to find something that she can understand, and it's always difficult. Between her vision issues, and her NVLD, she's sort of a goner as far as books are concerned. Which is why we do books on tape. But White Oleander isn't on tape, so that was out. The books that I've read on her list are numerous, but they are not books she would either like or understand. Tess of the D'Ubervilles? Forget it. No way could she read that. Farenheit 451 and Stranger in a Strange Land. Nope, not gonna happen. So we're kinda stuck between a rock and a hard place. Which sucks.

On the first day back from school, they have to write essays on their summer reading, and it's the first grade they receive. A lot of pressure is put on them to actually do the reading, and I'm fine with that, too. I think the school system is doing the right thing requiring that kids use their brains during the summer. I wish they would have other work as well, but that's just me being a pushy mom.

Why am I writing about this? Because I'm concerned that once again the Boy will not read all three books out of sheer laziness, and the Girl will get hysterical because she struggles to get the books read and wants to succeed, but has so much trouble that her frustration level goes through the roof.

Two such opposite kids. Learning comes way too easy for the Boy, and yet he is absolutely unwilling to make any effort at all. Learning is a constant struggle for the Girl, who works harder than any kid I've ever seen, and yet they end up with the same kind of grades. It's not really fair that effort no longer counts in high school.

I worry about college for both of them. The Boy needs a 5th year of high school to grow up. Graduating at his tender age and maturity level isn't the right thing. He's not yet serious about schooling, and a 5th year progam might set him straight. His school program is wonderful. I'm really happy with it and I think it's done wonders for his attitude about school. But he's still just doing enough to pass. No effort at all. None.

The Girl works so hard and college is going to be a blessing for her. She's going to LOVE it. She's just the kind of kid that 'finds themselves' at college. She'll make a ton of friends, she's not going to go overboard on the drinking and drugs thing (she hates all alcohol and won't even take aspirin, so I'm not all that worried), and she's such a hard worker that whatever she chooses to study, she'll do fine. She's very smart but it completely asynchronous because of the NVLD. Some things are totally easy for her, she's got the best memory in the world, she's so freaking observant it's ridiculous, but she can't follow a plot to save her life. She would like to be an interior designer or something that uses her creative talents, but she wants a job that actually pays well. I've got some ideas up my sleeve.

In the meantime, the Boy is watching 24 DVDs and eating everything in sight and the girl is plowing through The Lovely Bones. Typical. So freaking typical.

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Blogger Major Bedhead said...

They sound like my two. Alex has such an easy time learning things but finds it all boring. O struggles and struggles but never gives up.

I remember my summer reading lists. Nothing nearly as interesting. The Scarlet Letter. *yawn* Something interminable by Dickens *double yawn* or The Red Badge of Courage (I swear, that was on every list from about 6th grade on. I think I read it three times.)

12/7/07 6:12 PM  
Blogger Amy U. said...

I was a voracious reader as a kid, a little less so in high school, mostly because I had lots of part-time jobs. I think it's great your kids' school requires them to do some summer reading.

The Lovely Bones made me cry harder than any book I've ever read, including Charlotte's Web. I heard it is being adapted for film.

12/7/07 6:48 PM  
Blogger blackbird said...

I just did this with Youngest -
his choices were pretty awful and he settled on Watership Down. In the meantime he asked for another book to read 'for fun' and has read 4 chapters in a day.

12/7/07 8:05 PM  
Blogger JaniceNW said...

I read The Lovely Bones before it got all the press. Having lost a child I wondered how I would do with this book. It bothered me there was no true resolution(hey, just as in life!)and I wanted the MF that killed her nailed to a wall. It was intriguing(SP?) but I didn't love it or anything. Did I miss something? I did read her other book, Lucky, which was fascinating if not enjoyable.

Have you thought about The Secret Life of Bees? I really enjoyed that one.

12/7/07 11:11 PM  
Blogger Sechakecha said...

I had to read 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' for my college course last semester ~ and I was plesantly surprised. It wasn't what I thought it would be, it was good reading, and I actually enjoyed the book. For me, it was a pretty fast read, as well.

Sounds like your girl has good ideas with what she wants to do with her life. =)

13/7/07 7:42 AM  
Blogger The Hotfessional said...

I just finished re-reading The Lovely Bones. It's a beautiful book. Shortman generally goes through reading "spurts", but Mr. Hot and I devour books. I think I've read 4 this week.

13/7/07 9:14 AM  
Blogger celestial opus said...

Oh The Lovely Bones. I caught onto that one late and read as an adult, but it is still one of my favorites by far. Laughing and crying the first time through was such an experience. Too bad White Oleander is not on tape as if I recall the situations and families the heroine is with flows pretty time continuous, so not much 'plot' twisty turns to have problems with.

I didn't have summer reading lists as a kid, is this a new thing everywhere or just private schools?

13/7/07 5:27 PM  

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