If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

June Interviews

6/02 Terrie Moran, Murder She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond

6/09 Connie Berry, The Art of Betrayal

6/16 Kathleen Kalb, A Final Finale or A Fatal First Night

6/23 Jackie Layton, Bag of Bones: A Low Country Dog Walker Mystery

6/30 Mary Keliikoa, Denied

Saturday WWK Bloggers

6/12 Jennifer J. Chow

6/26 Kait Carson

Guest Blogs

6/05 Samantha Downing

6/19 Lynn Johanson


E. B. Davis's "The Pearl Necklace" will appear in the new SinC Guppy anthology The Fish That Got Away to be released in July by Wildside Press. The anthology was edited by Linda Rodriguez. It will be released on June 21st.

Paula Gail Benson's monologue "Beloved Husband," from the perspective of Norton Baskin the second husband of Marjorie Kinan Rawlings (who wrote The Yearling and Cross Creek), appears in the Red Penguin Collection's An Empty Stage (released March 28, 2021).

Martha Reed's "Death by GPS" will appear in the Spring 2021 issue of Suspense Magazine, which will be released in the second week of April. Congratulations, Martha!

Susan Van Kirk has a new audiobook, A Death at Tippitt Pond, that will be released this month. Marry in Haste will be released in May by Harlequin Worldwide Mystery, as will Death Takes No Bribes in September. Congratulations, Susan.

Congratulations to Martha Reed. Her short story, "The Honor Thief" was chosen for the 2021 Bouchercon Anthology, This Time For Sure. Hank Phillippi Ryan will edit the volume, which will be released in August at the time of the convention.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Killer Weeds," appears in the January 20 edition of Texas Gardener's Seeds: From Our Garden to Yours. Congratulations, Margaret, who, if you follow Facebook know, is a superb gardener herself!

Congratulations to Paula Gail Benson whose "Reputation or Soul" has been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.

KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!

Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Warning! Dangerous Reading Ahead

Boxes of yellow and green Crayola markers and other school supplies fill the shelves of our neighborhood grocery store. You know what that means. It’s back to school time! A time when joyful parents anticipate the end of summer vacation and high school kids scramble to complete their summer reading assignments.

We librarians on the front lines – the reference desk - are besieged by kids who have to write a report or do a project based on a class-assigned book selected by their teacher. And it’s due tomorrow! And all the copies are checked out! It’s a desperate time.

Back in the day – cue the black and white newsreel accompanied by old timey piano music – summer really was a vacation from school. Summer reading meant books of our own choosing, books taken musty and soft from the shelves in a lakeside cottage, or pulled from the hushed and dim recesses of a city library, or borrowed from a friend. We chose our own books.

Today’s kids, overscheduled with enrichment camps and sports leagues, now have math packets and civics assignments and book reports to complete in the break between the last and first days of school. They have assigned reading shouldering aside those last chances for a book of their own choice.

Here in the land of the helicopter parent, where every child is gifted (take that, Lake Wobegon), teachers assign a summer reading book carefully.

What’s new in this school-assigned summer reading?

Summer Reading Lists in my county now come with a warning:

“Please note that the books on this list may contain mature content and/or controversial material (i.e. offensive language, violence, and/or implied or explicit sexual situations). The resources listed below can be used to see book reviews and get more information about the books we will use in our class.”

Sure, I want to roll my eyes. Does everything, even literature, have to come bubble wrapped with a safety warning? But part of me is also amused and more than a bit pleased. I know the schools are just trying to ward off outraged parents, but this is an affirmation of what I’ve believed for a long time: Reading can be a dangerous undertaking. Imagine all those new ideas and epiphanies lying in wait for Cayden and Sophia. Literature can change minds, wound hearts, scar psyches. I know this wasn’t the motivation for the warning, but I can’t help getting a kick out of this unintentional nod to the power of books.


Barb Goffman said...

I understand why schools assign summer reading. But why can't the kids choose the books? I used to love summer vacation because I could finally read what I wanted to read. Family sagas in junior high. Suspense novels in high school. I feel bad for today's kids who don't have the options we did.

Grace Topping said...

The first summer reading list I received was in 1961 when I entered ninth grade. On the list was "Jane Eyre." I spent many a summer day reading that classic and enjoying it. I'm glad it was on the list since I'm sure at that age it wasn't a book I would have pulled off a library shelf of my own volition. I think summer reading lists help lead kids to books they probably wouldn't read otherwise. The big question is always why those particular books.

Jim Jackson said...

I am thankful I was a child of the 50s and 60s. Benign neglect by all adults is a powerfully good thing for children, but that seems to be in short supply these days.

And thank goodness kids still have access to subversive reading material. Too bad they have to be told what to read.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I never minded assigned reading. Being exposed to different genres and writing styles is part of the educational process. Most readers have "their" authors or styles/genres, which keep them in a rut. School-age children need exposure to new ideas, genres, writing styles (even if they are really old classics). A label on a book makes me react in the same way I did the other day--a container of peanuts was labeled: "Warning: this product was processed in a facility that handles nuts." Really!

KM Rockwood said...

I always had a list of assigned books for summer reading. They were usually hard to get hold of. Who could afford to buy all those books? The lists went with the grades and were unchanging, so somebody usually had a copy from an older sibling, and we'd share. Although I do remember the year nobody had a copy of Moby-Dick, and none of us read it. We all lost a grade point in English the first quarter of the new school year.

Once we counted up the number of kids on our block of single family houses, and there were 124 of us.

Our preferred reading was Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Cherry Ames, Bobsey Twins (not as popular) and similar series we passed around. The local public library deemed them not suitable for their collection, although they did have the Little House books.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I remember the frantic flurry of essay writing the week before school started.Reading the books was never a problem, but the writing was, particularly for the AP classes.

And then my rising college freshmen were issued a book at orientation: their summer reading assignment! Their initial outrage and frustration was followed by a huge sense of relief because all they had to do was read the book and be prepared to discuss it.

Gloria Alden said...

I'm even older than Jim. We had no assigned lists. In fact, thinking back only two books were required reading in high school English. One year it was Ivanhoe and the next year Romeo and Juliet. I didn't need assigned books to enjoy reading. I loved books and much of that came because my parents were readers, and even though money was a little tight with the size of our family, they belonged to Book-of-the-Month club. I remember my mother recommending A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. By today's standards that was mild compared to what is now written, but there were some scenes that had me shocked my mother would recommend this. No open sex, of course, but allusions to it. Now the only books I'm assigned to read are those picked by my two book clubs. They introduce me to many books I either never heard of or probably wouldn't have picked up on my own.

Denise Rodgers said...

Geez, I'm getting tired of noticing things that make me feel old. I also grew up in the time before assigned reading lists. I still spent my summers reading (and writing in my journal), generally sitting sideways in a tall-back green upholstered chair in my parents' living room. I read every Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twin we had, sometimes multiple times. And there was a large book of American Poetry that I read and re-read (and read and re-read again) which is probably why I started writing poetry before I finally (in my 50s) started to write mystery stories.

My kids were assigned reading lists, but if I recall correctly, they had to read a certain number from a much larger list of possible titles. At least they had some choice in the matter. Neither were avid readers, but then it was already the generation of screens (but before Kindle and Nook).

Shari Randall said...

Hi Barb - I think my summer choices were like yours! The thing that shocks me the most about the schools' summer reading lists is that they don't expect the kids to read much at all. A six page list of options and the expectation is that they will read ONE book. That's what shocks me.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Grace,
It's great when a book like Jane Eyre falls into your lap! Your comment is spot on - WHY those particular books? I see some teachers recommending their own favorite authors and I scratch my head. One teacher recently required that her fifth grade students read The Hunger Games. A terrific book, but really? A book about kids killing kids for 12 year olds?

Shari Randall said...

I'm with you, Jim. We may have been the last "free range" generation.

Shari Randall said...

Hi EB, I saw a jar like that, too. Walnuts. "processed in a facility where there were nuts." I sure hope so!
I do think kids should read widely, which is why some of the books that are chosen for lists make me, well, nuts. Also, the expectation of the number of books kids will read is so very low. If you look at the screen time for many kids - between 2-6 hours per day, there's a lot of time for reading.

Shari Randall said...

KM, I am always surprised when I hear about libraries that deemed some books unsuitable for kids! Thank goodness the library in my town had no problem supplying me with my Nancy Drews.
You're right about the cost of books. It all can add up quickly if kids have to buy them.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Margaret - I can imagine the relief! I've seen these One Book, One School programs and I think it's a great way for the kids to get to know each other. My younger daughter's school (Boston College) did one by Ann Patchett - wish I could remember which one. And the school pays the student the compliment of assuming that reading one book will not be too onerous.

Shari Randall said...

Gloria, I remember Ivanhoe! I imagine it's not on many lists any more. I thought it was so romantic!
My book club functions the same way for me - it makes me read outside my comfort zone and that's a good thing.

Shari Randall said...

Hi Denise, I think we spent the summers in the company of the same books! My kids are from that same "in between" generation. They read with both Kindles and with paper books. It will be interesting to see what happens with the all-screen kids, the digital natives. I've seen research that kids don't retain information as well when the read if off a screen - wonder what this will mean for books and reading down the road.

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

The Tulane Reading Project 2015 selection is Jesmyn Ward, Men We Reaped.

Warren Bull said...

Reading is subversive. So is writing.

Shari Randall said...

Margaret, that's one I've been wanting to read!

Shari Randall said...

Agreed, Warren!

Kara Cerise said...

I don't remember having summer reading lists when I was in school. I'm glad because summer was the time when my parents recommended books that they enjoyed. I remember discussing Harry Kemelman (Rabbi Small) and Tony Hillerman books after dinner while we sat outside next to the fire pit.

Shari Randall said...

Oh, Kara, how I loved the Rabbi books. Now I want to go reread them. How nice that you and your folks shared the same taste in books. Sadly, my dad likes nonfiction and my mom likes biographies. No mystery lovers except for me.