I love summer reading, and have since I first joined the Tacoma Public Library's summer reading program after first grade. I read over 100 books that summer and got to meet the mayor.
I don't love summer reading assignments. My freshman year in high school, it was Ivanhoe. Junior year, I read Tom Sawyer and The Sun Also Rises. I could not figure out the Hemingway book at all, and wrote that all the characters did was drink and go to bullfights. (In defense of 16-year-old me, that really is all they do.) It wasn't until later in the school year, after studying both In Our Time and A Farewell to Arms with my class under the guidance of our teacher, that I understood the Hemingway.
As a teacher, I've tried every version of the summer assignment. "Read from this list of classics," I said when I taught AP. "Read from this list of fun books," I said when I switched to middle school. A few years ago I abandoned the teacher-made list entirely and had my graduating 8th graders suggest their favorite books from the year.
This year I didn't even go that far. In fact, if you read what I handed out closely, you'll find that I didn't assign anything at all. Instead, I issued a Summer Challenge. I wrote the following:
See what I did there? There's no points, no assignment, just a little healthy competition with the younger grades and the offer that books read in summer count toward books read in 8th grade. The truth is, I never gave points for summer assignments anyway, because I was always too busy starting the year to sit down with a stack of book reports (and what you get after summer is a book report, regardless of the year in school). I also hated to have students start the year in the hole because of a summer assignment. I don't know what goes on in their families. I don't know what their summer was like, or even the kind of reader they were at the end of 7th grade. How can I grade them before I even spend one day in the classroom with them?
As for my own summer reading, well. . . at the end of the school year, my currently reading sign looked like this:
What are you reading this summer?