Summer Reading Lists: A Ranty Rant
Summer reading lists in New York are strange creations. I never had them when I was a kid, and somehow managed to avoid them entirely before moving to NYC. Once I was there I learned that kids in Manhattan are given lists of books to read over the summer and that they spend June through August trying to track certain titles down. We have such a wild variety of schools in the city that the kinds of lists presented to public librarians like myself vary immensely. There are brilliant lists and there are bad lists. Let’s talk about the bad ones then! So much more fun.
I am sitting at the Reference Desk in the basement of Donnell (oh sole part of the library with air conditioning, how I love thee, how I dote upon thee) and up walks Adorable 11-Year-Old Child. Adorable 11-Year-Old Child hands over a reading list of titles so old they make the picture I’ve included here look like a troupe of whippersnappers. I stare at abject horror at the titles. Consider, if you will, a list of historical fiction averaging between the years 1932 to 1950 and NO, oh no, not the good books from that era either. Out of curiosity I check to see whether or not that old chestnut and my least favorite Newbery winner Daniel Boone by James Daugherty is there, and sure enough there it sits, grinning at me like some evil elf. Heavens, I do not care for that book. The Adorable Child has meticulously taken the time to make little notes next to each title, indicating preference (Boone, most fortunately, is not selected). Almost all the books are out-of-print, particularly the ones he wants, but we still have quite a few of these titles in our room upstairs, so it’s no bother fetching them for him. Just the same, I have to resist the urge to track down his teacher with the intent of throttling them thoroughly. Aside from the fact that many of the titles on the list were picture books, this is just indicates poor research on the teacher’s part. Often parents and kids will wander into my library with lists their teachers have copied out of old booklists from the past. Book after book will be in our Reference section, because who in their right mind circulates a title from 1982 that only made it through a first printing and then was never seen or heard from again?
*pant pant pant*
Be sure to read a similar if different rant on the topic over at The Reading Zone, as well as the piece at Jen Robinson’s Book Blog. ShelfTalker also had a discussion up considering why YA novels are never listed on high school summer reading lists.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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