Tag Archives: school

The Agony and The Ecstasy: Summer Reading

18 years ago this week found a desperate, 17-year-old me scrambling to secure a VHS copy of The Elephant Man from my local library because school was starting and I had yet to read the required (and dreaded) Summer Reading assignment*!  Now friends, believe me when I tell you that cribbing on a test was waaay harder before the advent of the internet; Sparknotes and Pink Monkey were the stuff of the procrastinating student’s (read: my) dreams.  Instead, I was shelling out $4.95 at Walden Books for a book version of Cliff Notes.  (The irony that I read a Cliff Notes book to avoid reading the actual novel is not lost on me.)

Almost two decades later I’ve crossed over to the dark side, creating and correcting Summer Reading tests instead of sweating through them, attempting to fool my teacher into believing I read the books with vague references to conflicts, plot structure, and theme in my essays. 

The (only) great thing about my checkered academic history is that I know ALL the tricks because I’ve pulled them.  I assign my students two books for Summer Reading–one classic and one contemporary.  I know that most of them use Sparknotes and the like for the classic…but not for the contemporary one! 

As I was grading Summer Reading quizzes (given the first day of school!) last year, I came across these gems.  The candor!  The wit!  I love my job.  Let’s have a look at a few of my favorites from 2008.  What will 2009 bring?  One can only imagine!


"I didn't read this book because I thought that Sparknotes had every book. So, I was planning on reading it last night but Sparknotes didn't have it. 😦 "

C’mon!  Does it get any better than that?   Well, maybe…


And this, in a nutshell, is why I love my job and adore Summer Reading–if only for the fodder they both provide my blog. 

So, were you a concientious student who always did his/her Summer Reading or were you a hellion like me–waiting until the last possible second to do your school work?!?  Does Summer Reading serve a purpose?  Did your school district spare you (or your kids) from the pain that is Summer Reading?  Inquiring minds want to know.

*The Collector by John Fowles was the other book I was required to read.  When I finally got around to reading the novel (a few months into the school year) it became one of my favorite books! 


The Reading Cult for Kids: Scholastic Books

I have vivid recollections of my six years in elementary school.  A few are traumatic–hysterics on the first day of kindergarten after being pried from my mother’s arms and deposited aboard a menacing, yellow bus; a sadistic first grade teacher who sported a towering beehive (in ’81) and took pleasure in punishing disorganized little me by dumping the contents of my desk on to my lap as I sat on the floor crying.  But there were good times amid the trauma. 

I recall the fun that was inhaling the heady scent of mimeographed paper (old-time photocopies for the youngsters!), D.E.A.R time (Drop Everything And Read), and best of all, SCHOLASTIC BOOK FLIERS and FAIRS.


Scholastic has been peddling books to school children via mini-newspapers for almost 60 years.  I perused the flier with the fervor of a lost man studying a map. 

Whole hours were spent poring over the literary possibilities.  The epic decisions that rested on my little shoulders threatened to break me.   Should I stay safe and go with Clifford and Corduroy, or maybe try something new?

Going out on a limb, selecting an unknown author or title, was a venture fraught with peril.  A feeling of unease would set in if I let spontaneity rule; I would invariably pick the cruddiest book that Scholastic offered.  Weeks of anticipation and waiting for my package would be for naught.

I still own a few of my Scholastic purchases to this day.  The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willow Davis Roberts  was one of my favorites and still has a place of honor in the “silver” section of my organized-by-color book cabinet. 

So, ‘fess up.  Were you a Scholastic disciple?  Did you order up books from the little newspaper?  I know this wasn’t only a Jersey thing–sure, we’ve got the market on nuclear waste and the mafia cornered…but other states had to have Scholastic too!