I think most teachers would not be surprised to hear that, in the last couple of weeks before school starts, kids descend upon the bookstore to pick up all those summer reading books they’ve been procrastinating reading. But I’ll bet those students would be pretty surprised to discover that it works both ways; their teachers are scrambling, too. More on that in a moment.
All summer long, but especially in mid-June right when school lets out and reading lists have just been handed out, and now in mid-August when that reading deadline looms large in the windshield, we help kids sort through their schools’ reading lists. This involves scrolling through what are often pages of proffered titles — different for each school, of course — in order to find five or six possibilities to booktalk that we think will most appeal to that young reader based on his or her interests and preferences. I’m always sad when the only thing a student seems to care about is finding the shortest book. Not only does that cut out some terrific reads, but it’s not even a reliable barometer of readability; some slim tomes are a slog, while other, longer books fly by. Reading time is as relative as spacetime.
I do think it would make struggling readers feel better to know that their teachers are also racing to meet the deadlines of the new school year. They are allocating precious budget money to fill their classroom libraries, to buy multiple copies of titles for reading groups, and to find perfect fits for the new Core Curriculum guidelines for their curricula. We help the teachers, too, of course, pulling up lists of historical fiction and scientific nonfiction, titles about explorers and mathematicians and kids throughout history who have done important things, picture books and chapter books that open worlds for young readers. It’s useful that I used to be a school librarian and elementary school teacher, and that Josie was a high school English teacher, and that our staffers have various broad swatches of expertise.
It’s a collaborative effort, this summer scramble to get the best books into the hands of kids and the good people who shepherd them through the landscape of learning, and it’s a delightful challenge.