I follow Barnes & Noble on Facebook and today they posted a summer reading challenge. Details here.
I love this idea! I've been reading since I was very little, and always wondered why other kids didn't do the same. A lot of kids look at summer reading as a chore, instead of as a joy. For me, summer reading is one of the best ways to keep kids learning and growing while they aren't in school. A lot of schools have set reading lists of books kids have to read, but others give a range of books and that's my favorite way of doing it. I think that, instead of forcing kids into a specific direction with their reading as they do during school, kids should be left to explore their own interests in the summer.
My fiancé Chris likes to tell me the story of how he loved to read nonfiction on his own time while he was a kid, and one of his teachers was so dismayed by his interest in history that she wouldn't let him take any nonfiction books out of the school library. He was supposed to be reading fiction, not facts! His mother, thank goodness, stood up for him and got that restriction lifted. I like to think that if that were my child, I would have done the same thing (and then taken it to the principal, school board, etc. to get this teacher disciplined - no one should be telling my child what he should and should not be interested in!).
I can't help but think that my ability to read freely when I was little has helped shape my own interests in reading today. Knowing I could read whatever I wanted (within reason - obviously I wasn't allowed to read adult books in elementary school) allowed me to choose books that fit within my interests, and prepared me to make analytical choices later. Continuing to read even when I wasn't in school, I shaped my own library, which has grown in size since then and is my pride and joy. Reading whatever I wanted also helped me decide what I wanted to do with my life. I want to teach college literature, I want to spend a lot of time analyzing and talking about some of my favorite subjects, and I want to help other young minds figure out their own interests as well. And if all that fails, well, I'll just open a bookstore!
I guess what I'm trying to say is that this Barnes & Noble promotion is a great idea, a great way for kids to explore their interests, and puts them on a path to discovering themselves. If you have children, I highly recommend having them participate. Not only do they read a lot, but they have to explain to whom and why they would recommend the books they read. And tell them to be honest - if they don't like a book, say why they wouldn't recommend it to anyone. This could be the start of a lifelong love of reading.
(And parents, there may be a free Nook in there for you too!)