Reading for pleasure used to be almost an oxymoron amongst teenagers. I am a high school English and have noticed a trend ever since the Twilight Saga became popular. Reading is now working it’s way into activities of teenagers, because reading is becoming social. There are websites like Goodreads.com where members track the books they are reading, rate them, and even review them. There reviews and ratings are sent out to their friends on the site or through a facebook update. This trend means that teenagers are beginning to read and have conversations through vairous social networks about what they read – thus making reading a “cool” and socially acceptable activity for teenagers. It is no longer “lame” to list reading as a hobby on your profiles for social networks. In fact, it is not uncommon for me to get on to kids in my class to put away their books or E-readers during class. Imagine that an English teacher having to to tell students to stop reading. I never would have thought that would happen.
In order to encourage this trend over the summer teenagers need to read books which relate to their lives. Although most classics do have universal themes that any reader should be able to connect with, these themes are sometimes difficult for students to uncover on their own and that is not what summer reading is about anyways. During the summer, teenagers should be exposed to light reading that engages them and keeps them engaged. The type of reading when you open a book in the morning and finally look up and realize that you have skipped two meals because you were so enthralled with the story. As much as I like the complexity of classics written by Shakespeare or Dickens, for example, I would have difficulty getting into the “reading zone” where I get completely lost in the book, because I spend so much energy deciphering the language.
I suggest students take advantage of the young adult literature that is becoming more popular these days. Author’s like Jodi Picoult, Rick Riordan, Markus Zusak, and Suzzanne Collins are writing novels for young adults that contain themes teens can connect with while entertaining them as well. Take the Hunger Games Series by Suzzanne Collins for example. It keeps teens turning pages and talking with each other about the surprising plot twists. The heroine of the story is a teen herself, who lives in a dystopian society and ends up fighting for her survival in a competition that pits her against others her age in a fight to the death. Even though the novel is rather violent, which obvioulsy keeps most teens engaged, Collins is able to weave in themes that deal with compassion, courage, values, will power and sacrifice that captivate the reader. The series makes perfect summer reading, because teens don’t need a teacher to help them comprehend the plot, and once they begin reading they will be hooked and devour the book willingly. With books like these reading for pleasure is now a reality for young students. Reading young adult literature during the summer, may not single handedly, prepare them for the academic rigor of college, but it will help them build their reading endurance, and enlighten them to the idea that books are rewarding and ar eable to affect readers in important ways.
As an English teacher I advocate, combining academic reading and pleasure reading. It makes sense to do academic reading at school where a teacher is present to guide reading and provide support when needed. This leaves the summer time to kick back, relax and explore new authors of young adult literature and share these books with friends!