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HARRY POTTER MEETS OLIVER TWIST: Popular Fiction Joins Classical Literature on Summer Reading Lists

"from very young children who have to be reminded how to read, to older students who don't perform well on standardized tests because their comprehension skills have slipped,"

Think back to your days in high school and the inevitable summer reading list. For many, a quick glance at the reading list composed of Shakespeare, Dickens, and Twain, combined with the subsequent trip to the bookstore, brought a rush of excitement: “Look at all the great books I’ll get to read this summer,” or “I can’t wait to start reading such-and-such.”

However, after the initial excitement fades, the reality of a stack of literature one or two feet high begins to set in. Today, amidst the temptations of trips to the beach, Instant Messaging, and the Real World marathon on MTV, it’s likely that few books on the reading list are actually finished, if started at all. In an effort to reintroduce today’s students to the joy of reading, many teachers are substituting the classics with more recent works by John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, and J.K. Rowling.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Christina A. Samuels writes that the summer reading required by Washington-area teachers and librarians is “moving away from time-honored works of literature to popular fiction.” The article explains that the logic behind the movement is to keep kids reading. For educators, the most important thing that a student can learn in the summer is that reading books isn’t drudgery.

Betsy Brown, program supervisor for secondary literature and language arts for Montgomery County schools, is quoted as saying that a student who doesn’t read at all during the summer will face serious consequences in the fall. This applies to all students, “from very young children who have to be reminded how to read, to older students who don’t perform well on standardized tests because their comprehension skills have slipped,” according to Brown.

New Study Finds that Time Spent Online Can Raise Classroom Performance

According to a Michigan State University study, low-income children who spend a good deal of time on the Web do slightly better in school than children who do not. The 16-month study included 140 school-age children. Those who spent more than 30 minutes a day on the Internet saw their grade point averages increase from 2.0 to 2.2 or higher and their scores in standardize reading tests improve noticeably as well.

According to Michigan State psychology professor Linda Jackson, who conducted the study, the reason for academic improvement is simple: “Spending time online means spending time reading,” she said in a Cox News Service interview. “When you’re on the Web, you have to read a lot of text.” Not surprisingly, the children apparently did not spend all their time on the Internet learning. They spent some time looking at pornography, playing online games, and downloading music. They spent the most time online, however, researching school projects or hobbies and interests.

“Kids might not be reading books anymore, but they are reading Web pages,” Jackson said. “I’m not saying we should burn up all the libraries. . . but maybe this is a sign of the future.”

Read the complete summer reading list article:

Read more about the Internet study at:

DATELINE NBC TO COVER ADULT READING PROGRAMFriday, August 8, 8:00 p.m.: Dateline NBC will air a program about four adults with different educational backgrounds who needed help learning how to read and write, their struggle to do so, and how they arrived at their current situation.


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