Sunday, April 6, 2008
Now I understand the purpose of summer reading lists. As a kid, I knew they were designed to let teachers ruin summers by underhandedly cramming in another assignment before school started. As an adult, I could see how reading a relevant novel could help set the stage for history in the fall. But as a parent, I have discovered that the real reason is to keep kids' brains fit over the summer so they are ready for school in the fall. My daughter loves to read, but had gotten into the habit of reading brain candy: fast-reading, easy-to-follow stories that took her a day or less to read. Recently, we have eased her off the brain candy and onto more intelligent books with denser stories and more complex structure; she is loving Mary Renault's books set in ancient Greece. Not only is she losing the drugged look the brain candy could give her when she overdid them, she is finding that she can read and enjoy books that even recently were too difficult to read with pleasure. Her brain had just gotten lazy reading the easy stuff and needed some exercise to tackle the harder books without spraining anything. She is discovering that she likes the more challenging books, and has started saving the brain candy for weekends, for dessert.