Sound bizarre? This is how one might begin to write an assignment for our local school district's summer reading project. Yes, a 7th or 8th grader may, among other assignments, "Choose an astrological sign for each of the main characters and explain why the character fits the sign's criteria."
There is also a list of books that "students may not [the chairperson's emphasis] read." Perhaps these forbidden books might be reserved as assigned reading during the actual school year, and thus would be unsuitable for the summer reading list. But the assignment sheet does not say that the students may not choose books from this list, which includes several classics and "Shakespeare's Works," for the summer reading project. It simply says that "students may not read" these books.
Um. What if one does read them? The assignment sheet does not say, but discouraging a reader seems antithetical to the goals of the local English department, as outlined briefly in the opening line of the accompanying letter from the English Chairperson, which reads, "Educational research continually confirms the long held belief that reading provides children with many of the skills necessary for success."
On second thought, the above sentence is an odd statement by itself; I always thought reading was a skill...a skill that should be nurtured and encouraged, not selectively denied.
And writing is completely optional (see link above)...parents should be thankful if their child chooses to call Cathy a Capricorn, and Heathcliff a Sagittarius. At least he's writing.