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So Much for Summer Reading Assignments

(By Julie Zhu -- Montgomery Blair High School)

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dear Extra Credit:

Here it is, folks -- drumroll, please -- the Fairfax County summer reading lists, posted on the Fairfax County Public Schools Web site:

"Every student who will be entering grades six through twelve in the fall must read at least one book over the summer."

Wow, I don't know how you can even begin to defend our educational system when it puts a statement like that on its Web site. And Fairfax County is supposed to be one of the better school systems in the country? What are the summer reading requirements for the school systems that aren't considered the best? Maybe "Every student who will be entering grades six through twelve in the fall must look at the cover of at least one book over the summer" or "Every student who will be entering grades six through twelve in the fall must read at least one MySpace entry this summer"?

It gets better. Curious to know which books (or book, really) would be recommended by our illustrious school system for high schoolers to read over the summer, I clicked on the link that said "Summer Reading Lists." List, I believe, would be a misnomer for what came up on my screen. Here are the recommendations for rising ninth-graders: "Read a book from one of the following genres: mystery, science fiction, fantasy, western/adventure, historical fiction." Wow -- how's that for guidance? I guess that's what we're paying the administrators the big bucks for, so that we can get reading recommendations closely tailored to the academic needs of a student who will be taking ninth-grade English next year.

Oh, the lists do get more specific as the kids get older. Students entering 10th grade are instructed to read a nonfiction book (well, it narrows the field down at least), and those entering 11th grade are advised to read a book by an American author. Twelfth-graders are supposed to build on this wide base of reading experience by reading a book by a foreign author.

Talk about lowering the bar -- pity the parents who believe their children should read two or three books a week during the summer. They definitely shouldn't look to the professional educators for backup on this point. Fairfax County Public Schools should be embarrassed to have these generic, undemanding "recommendations" on the Web site. So much for raising a generation of readers.

Rena Corey


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