Summer Reading: What’s “acceptable”?

This summer for the first time I helped compile suggested summer reading lists for each grade level.  This came at the request of parents and teachers.  I’ve always been a bit hesitant about narrowing down to one list per grade level because there are so many wonderful books out there to read and many that I haven’t even read myself.  How could I possibly make lists that would cover so many interests and reading levels?  However, I made the lists, and I’m sure they have been helpful to several people.

Now that summer draws to a close, I’m revisiting the need for summer reading lists and thinking about what is really acceptable when we think about summer reading lists.  Should we really expect students to read an extensive list of books over the summer and only focus on the book lists?  I raise this question because I wonder where do all of the other kinds of reading and writing experiences over the summer fit onto the reading logs that come back to school in August.

For example, I read multiple blogs and online articles that come to me through my Google reader, facebook, and twitter.  Last week, I saw a post on facebook about a recipe for butterbeer cupcakes in honor of the last Harry Potter movie.  I’ve eaten a few butterbeer cupcakes from 2 local cupcake shops and I was curious about how to go about making them.  I followed the link to the blog, read the article and recipe, and then proceeded to search for other butterbeer recipes.  Other than cupcakes, I became curious about how to make butterbeer, so I started comparing recipes until I found one that sounded just right.  I printed the cupcake and the butterbeer recipe, made my shopping list, and went shopping for ingredients.  Back at home, I reread the blog and the accompanying pictures of the cupcake process and got busy making my own rendition of butterbeer cupcakes.  I don’t consider myself to be much of a baker, but I felt like I was on an episode of cupcake wars.  After what seemed like hours of work, the cupcakes were ready and I savored every bite of my first one.  Then, I thought that I needed to document the final product, so I took pictures of the cupcakes.  I started asking myself…what did you learn from this?…..which is what lead me to sit down to write this post.

Where does this reading experience fit on a summer reading list?  It wasn’t a book, but I did a lot of reading, critical thinking, applying my learning, and reflecting.  In the future, I want to open up avenues for students to share these kinds of reading experiences when they get back to school from the summer.  I hope I’ll even hear some of them this year, even though they weren’t a part of the “suggested summer reading”.

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