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June 14, 2004

-- Opinion --

Sucking the fun out of summer

By Joe Keo

The last school bell rings, students pack the hallways and the doors fly wide open; Iím finally free of this hell that they call high school.

Yet something is still keeping me down. No, itís not the humidity or heat, but the weight of summer reading books in my backpack.

Summer is usually the time to relax and lie in the sun. Itís the time when I'd rather  throw aside my books and calculator and trade them in for sunny days and trips to the beach.

When the cool waters wash ashore, my toes would be deep into the sand. As a breeze blows through my hair, my eyes would be deeply fixated on the fading pink and orange swirl of a sunset Ė not!

The only thing that my eyes will be fixated on is small black font in a thick novel. My fingers, not my toes, will be having so much fun flipping through a couple hundred pages of good olí American literature.

I know Iím just complaining, but I really never got used to reading over the summer. When my English teachers assigned me books in class, I read them.

Then I had to analyze, write an essay, and once in a while get quizzed on it. After a while the whole routine just got really tedious and annoying.

I wonít lie Ė some of the books I read in school were pretty interesting. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, involved a very adventurous plot of a boy and a runaway slave. The Great Gatsby was a story of hopeless romantic who goes through all sorts of trouble, but dies in his pursuit for love.

Reading at times was enjoyable and enlightening, but when teachers start dissecting every aspect of the story and dragging it out, it can get grueling. I hate subjecting myself to that, and itís even worse during the summer.

Every year high school students are assigned a summer reading list.

A student is told to read the book, understand it, and at most times is recommended to take notes. At least students have the choice of the title, if thatís any consolation.

When students return, they are then evaluated by their teacher through the means of an essay.  Teachers hand out writing prompts, and in a limited amount of time, the students are to write a composition that answers the prompt while incorporating themes, motifs, symbolism, and character development relevant to the book that was read.

If that doesnít suck the fun out of reading, then I donít know what does. Just let me enjoy the book the way it is. If I have questions, Iíll be the first to ask.

Reading isnít for everyone. Iím sure the majority of the students at my school can read (there are some exceptions), but they have personal tastes in what they read. I doubt that Steinbeck and Fitzgerald are top favorites of many of the students.

Donít get me wrong, I read The Grapes of Wrath (well, I read part of it and then saw the movie, but theyíre pretty close), it was good, but I rather be reading comics than reading about the struggle of Oklahoma farmers any day of the week, especially a week during the summer.

In reality, reading isnít what I consider a way to enjoy the summer. Thereís the outdoors. Clear blue skies, green fields, and the music of the local ice cream truck are all out there, waiting to become a part of summer memories.

Sure, a book can describe in detail and length the beautiful radiance of morning on a tropical island, but wouldnít you rather be living it than reading it?

Maybe itís just me.



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