What did you read this summer?

  August 25, 2003 at 2:26 PM ET
  grae     iharrypotter.net (via The Kansas City Star)

Just as students were being let out of school for the summer, a certain 870-page book was being released, which children from second-graders on up gladly read without any prodding from their parents or teachers. So why wasn't it includedopens in new window in any of their summer reading lists?

Do the names Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Norman Bridwell, Cynthia Rylant, Jerry Spinelli, Beverly Cleary, Gary Paulsen, Sharon Creech, Louis Sachar and Phyllis Naylor ring a bell? They are among authors who made lists for schools in Virginia, Connecticut, Alabama, Missouri, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.

Incidentally, one book that did not make it on many schools' summer reading lists, and I can't imagine why, turned out to be one of the most read books of the summer by children of various ages.

It was J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix. Rowling's book arrived in book stores just as schools let out for the summer. Children like mine, who received their 870-page book just past midnight when the book was released, went home to read immediately afterward. So did children all over the country who got their hands on that long anticipated sequel to the Harry Potter series.

Given Rowling's influence on young readers and her appeal to boys and girls, one would think she would have made multiple reading lists this summer. She should have, considering that children from second-graders on up are voluntarily reading books that go on for hundreds and hundreds of pages.

Quick anecdote: I ran into another mother at a Barnes & Noble book store, each of us clutching our children's summer reading lists and trying to help our children choose books for the break.

Finally the mother turned to me exasperated and said, "You know, this is ridiculous. My son is reading a 500-page Harry Potter book and is loving it. I'm not about to pull him away from reading that just so he can read a couple of these flimsy little books from this list just so the school will be happy. What's most important is that they're reading, right?"


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