We're on the prowl for a few good books for kids.
Say what you want about today's generations of nonreaders and computer geeks. Rant if you must about TV's mind-numbing influence. And forget about the parents who complain each year that required summer reading is an affront. The fact remains that many kids like to read - and summer, despite endless other distractions, is when the quest for the perfect book can be particularly appealing.
That's why we need your help.
To be realistic, many kids don't always know that right about now is when they want to find that ideal literary experience. They may think they'll betray their class if they darken the door of a library or bookstore. But even the staunchest nonreader can be swayed, if not by a little help from a friend, then by a stint of excruciating boredom.
What we're looking for are not the usual suspects but the lesser-known or newer gems that you think will keep kids of all ages turning the page. We'd also like ideas to keep kids engaged whose interest in reading is flagging.
And one more thing: Send us strategies to help parents "survive" kids' reading choices. This spring, my sixth-grader's fascination with an endless series of "Star Wars" tomes made me reconsider the merits of book burnings. He is an avid reader, but right now he wants adventure, and Tom Sawyer won't cut it.
So I challenged him to a Tom Clancy novel. Seven hundred pages of small type and more than a few explanations of NATO later, he's finished and ready for the next one. Though it's not my ideal read, I'm content because he had to think a little harder and the plot yielded a more interesting conversation than Luke vs. the Empire.
Most of all, I'm happy that it's summer and he's reading, learning more about that quiet, happy space created by engagement with a book. In late August, maybe I'll even try a little poetry, starting with one by Wallace Stevens that may resonate as summer fades:
"The house was quiet and the world was calm./ The reader became the book; and summer night/ Was like the conscious being of the book./ The house was quiet and the world was calm./ The words were spoken as if there was no book,/ Except that the reader leaned above the page,/ Wanted to lean, wanted much most to be/ The scholar to whom his book is true, to whom/ Thesummer night is like a perfection of thought./ ..."
* Please send us your ideas by June 26 and we'll print them up. Write: Summer Reading/Learning Section, One Norway St., Boston, MA, 02115, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org