Summer Reading: Con


Summer assignments are a not-too-distant memory for most high school students, halted for a few years due to the COVID pandemic. The question at hand: should the grating summer reading assignments even make a return to any school’s agenda?

Summer learning loss is undeniably very real and a pressing issue, but summer assignments are no way to fix this. Summer learning loss affects low income students the most, but assignments will not bring them up to speed. Low-income students are more likely to transfer schools and move than their higher-income counterparts, according to the article “Disruption versus Tiebout improvement: the costs and benefits of switching schools” in The Journal of Public Economics,  leaving them even more behind if they switch districts over the summer because they will not have received the summer work for that district.

The summer assignments are often worksheets or projects completed with no teacher present. This leaves students to try and work things out themselves, perhaps making mistakes with no teacher there,, meaning incorrect processes or ideas are reinforced, ready to trip them up later in the year.

Summer reading projects are more often than not reports or work on a specific book. With no freedom to choose what they want to read, students get bored and burn out quickly, already tired of school before it’s even begun. Their freedom to choose what they’re learning is vital. 

Several research studies have shown that simply giving low-income children books on the final day of school can stem summer reading loss. But these books must be books they can and want to read,” said Richard Allington, a professor of reading education at the University of Tennessee, in a 2009 New York Times article “The Crush of Summer Homework.”

Reading over the summer through school-organized programs, or attending educational summer camps,  are fine alternatives to summer assignments and reports that can still keep students up to academic speed. They don’t allow for the end-of-break assignment procrastination that plagues many who are victims of summer homework, and give students the freedom necessary for them to actually learn. 

Denise Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford University School of Education, said in the same New York Times article, “If students are given choice and voice in the learning process, they are more likely to want to learn the material and more likely to retain it.”

Reading and learning over the summer are no doubt vital, but they must be arranged in a way that gives students independence and freedom to explore lessons in ways they enjoy. The summer assignments of dull reports and worksheets must be scrapped in favor of school-encouraged summer engagement and educational freedom.