BY CHARLIE LOVETT
Summer reading. Those two words once filled me with both excitement and trepidation. “Summer” meant no school, long days tromping about in the woods (if it wasn’t raining), or playing Monopoly (if it was). But reading? That meant work—the same sort of work that summer was meant to spare us from. Summer reading didn’t mean pulling down my favorite Hardy Boys volume, with its worn pictorial cover, or even revisiting my battered paperback copies of Huckleberry Finn or The Hobbit. Summer reading meant a list prepared by a teacher with specific requirements, and the near certainty that the very book we would be expected to discuss on the first day of class would be the one I didn’t quite make it to.
How times have changed! The Bookmarks Summer Reading program takes out the trepidation and leaves nothing but the excitement. Imagine if, instead of being told exactly what to read, you could choose from dozens of books. Imagine having the chance to create a response to your favorite book in the form of a work of art, a video, a written response, or anything else you can create. Imagine having that response shared with thousands of book enthusiasts and fellow readers. Imagine if you could write a letter to the author of that book and then have a chance to hear that author speak in person. Imagine getting to shake the author’s hand and ask her a question and get him to sign your book. I’ve got to say, when I heard the details of the Bookmarks Summer Reading Program, I wanted to go back to school!
The program is open to any student, K–12, in North Carolina. Students receive a list of books and authors—many drawn from the writers of children’s and young adult books who will appear at the Bookmarks Festival from September 7th–10th. Every student who fulfills the requirements listed in the program booklet will receive a completion prize certificate that will enable him/her to choose a book from the Summer Reading Table at the September 9th Festival. Middle and high school students will also be entered into a competition for Bookmarks’ gift certificates and cash prizes up to $250.
2017 Festival Authors whose books are part of the Summer Reading Program include: Margarita Engle, who wrote the Charlotte Zolotow Award- winner, Drum Dream Girl; John Feinstein, who is releasing a new young adult book, Backfield Boys; cartoonist, co-creator and writer of the “Over the Hedge” comic strip, Michael Fry; award-winning and bestselling author and illustrator, Grace Lin; the winner of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent, Jason Reynolds; and Javaka Steptoe, author of Radiant Child, Winner of the 2017 Caldecott Medal. Award-winning and bestselling young-adult authors, Jenny Han and Sherrilyn Kenyon, will also appear at the Festival.
Bookmarks will hold events throughout the summer to keep young readers engaged and excited—these will include writing workshops, book discussions, a Saturday Art Jam with Art for Art’s Sake, film screenings, and more.
Student responses will be displayed during this year’s festival, so readers will have the chance to share their enthusiasm and thoughts with the entire community. And, of course, with all those authors coming to the festival, students will have a chance to engage directly with the people who wrote the books they have loved reading.
When I was in school, I never met an author. I certainly never had the chance to write a letter to Mark Twain or J.R.R. Tolkien, and I never got a book signed by Franklin W. Dixon (granted, he didn’t actually exist, but you get the point). While I’m sure the children of Winston-Salem will spend plenty of time this summer on their bikes, or on the soccer field, or at the movies, I hope they will also spend some time in the pages of books. It will make for a wonderful summer, and I promise, there won’t be a test.
Visit www.bookmarksnc.org/authors-in-schools/summer-reading for information on the program, summer reading events, and how students can participate.