SOMETIME THIS summer, between the backyard water follies and trips to the mall, skating dates, camp crafts and mind-numbing electronic game battles, the child must be compelled to linger with a good book.
School's out and each dawn breaks with possibility, plans and freedom and aw, shucks, here come mom and dad holding the summer reading list, secretly yearning for the luxury of time to read those books themselves. (Clandestinely, after the child's in bed, they actually might.)
The best teachers understand this. So reading lists issued at the close of school should tease our nostalgia for great tomes of the past, and tempt with titles we should have sampled when they and we were young.
A random survey of area schools reveals a trend toward classic novels, historical fiction and biography; most assignments portend lessons to come in the fall. The perennials are there: Used bookstores can expect a run on Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Flies. Gilman juniors are reading Founding Brothers by Joseph J. Ellis and The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien.
Western's 10th-graders are reading Animal Farm by George Orwell and Days of Grace by Arthur Ashe. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Lincoln by Gore Vidal and Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier will challenge many Notre Dame Prep 10th-graders.
Mercy High School 12th-graders will lap up Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel; 10th-graders will tackle Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God.
For the youngest readers, the goal this summer is retention of basic skills learned during the school year. A play date with Ramona the Pest is phonics and comprehension practice in disguise. As always, the public library will be the place to be: Race to Read is the theme statewide, featuring books about transportation and motion. In addition, celebrating the 75th anniversary of its children's services, the city's Enoch Pratt Free Library will help kids explore fun books about elementary math: Go figure!
So much to read, so little time.