Summer Reading: Memories Are Made of This
By John Holdren, K12’s senior vice president for content and curriculum
Oh, those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer reading, when you can flop backwards on the couch, slump against a tree trunk, or sprawl on the sand and just take in the pages for pure pleasure. Yes, it’s good for you, but let’s just ignore the undeniable educational benefits and concentrate on the joy of reading whatever you like, with no follow-up questions, no unit assessment, no analytical essays.
So much to read and so little time—where do you begin? You might already have a list of titles, but if not, consider these favorites from a few folks who work at K12, who have taken time to recall some of their favorite books from their youthful days.
You must read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. Two children escape to a museum where they camp out in exhibits, gather coins from fountains, and solve a fabulously guarded mystery. Every time I went into a museum after reading this book, I would think about hiding out until closing, when I could have free rein to see and touch all of the exhibits from which I’d been cordoned off earlier in the day. -Sasha Wall, Manager, Learning Environment K–5
When I was a boy, National Velvet by Enid Bagnold captivated me; I remember being completely engrossed in it. Also, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. There is an ethereal quality about this book that is nearly hypnotic. And the Hardy Boys series—although these books might seem dated to the modern reader, the adventure, mystery, and intrigue are still alive for boys today. -Dan Franck, Senior Content Specialist, Science
In the third grade at my public elementary school, I somehow latched onto versions of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey retold for kids by Aubrey de Sélincourt. The material was totally foreign to my family experience on a Michigan farm, so it seemed exotic and awe-inspiring. I kept reborrowing the books and would reread them straight through, over and over. (The same obsessive rereading overtook me with Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.) Turning back to Homer so often, I started to half-believe in the gods and goddesses of Greece, the tragedy of Troy, and the wanderings of Odysseus. -David Pelizzari, Senior Director, Content and Curriculum
One of my favorite novels from childhood is Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Harriet keeps a notebook with her at all times and is always furiously scribbling her observations about people, places, and behaviors. Although Harriet intends for her notes to be private, her classmates read them, and Harriet learns an important lesson about being true to oneself while managing to navigate the complexities of adolescent life. I think there’s a little Harriet in all of us. -Beth Zemble, Director, English Language Arts/Alternative Learning Strategies
When I was younger (probably 4 or 5), I loved the Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer. The books touched on life lessons and typical child mischief. Later, I also loved the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine—full of adventure, and so many to choose from. In middle school, I read Night by Elie Wiesel for the first time, and again in high school. It really touched my heart and made me feel for the tragic victims of the Holocaust. -Kelly Rice, Project Coordinator, High School Product Development
My most vivid reading memory from school days is The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning reading the first book, then read each of the other books in a single day as well. The stories pulled me in like nothing I had read before. -Paul Thomas, Senior Content Specialist, Mathematics
I was in fifth grade, and we had just moved to the United States from Zambia. I was a long-haired, barefoot wild child with a love for reading, and so tragically uncool. Imagine moving to the States at 9 and having no background in music, movies, television, fashion. Who is John Lennon? Who is Elvis? The Bee Gees are not cool? Let’s just say that fitting in was not happening. It was tough to make friends those first years. In sixth grade I was hanging out in the library, looking alone and out of place, and the librarian came up to me to help me find something to read. She picked out The Hobbit. I had never read a fantasy novel before, and I spent several late nights under the covers with the flashlight reading about the brave band of travelers and their adventures. It opened my eyes to a whole new world of books and adventures that truly took me away from the awkwardness of growing up, an escape where everything and everyone was different. The book also introduced me to other people who love fantasy fiction. One of those people (a million years later) is my husband. He and I have now read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings series out loud to each other (he does a wicked imitation of Gimli), and we can’t wait to read them together with our daughter—or maybe we’ll just leave a flashlight by her bed.
Kim Barcas, Senior Creative Designer
The books I could not put down were the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My second-grade teacher read Little House in the Big Woods aloud to our class, and I was hooked. I felt like I was there with Laura and Mary and Pa and Ma. I liked, too, how the stories emphasized the gentle but strong, loving family bond. That is why I am a reader. Through a good story, I can understand and relate to the experiences of the characters and go places I could never go in reality. -Suzanne Montazer, Art Director, Product Development
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