When is Your Independent Reading Due?

On the very far, back-in-the-corner burner in Dylan’s mind is the idea that, for each semester, he is required to do an independent reading project. His teacher casually mentioned this – to me – a few weeks ago.

“What are you going to read?” I asked him – a few weeks ago.

“I have to read a fantasy book or science fiction, but I think I’m just gonna pick one of the ones on the list,” Dylan said.

“Which one?” I asked.

Alice in Wonderland,” he said. “I already read it.”

“You read it when you were nine!” I squealed. “And I read it TO you!”

“Yeah, but I still remember it,” he said.

“It doesn’t work that way. You need to pick a new book and actually read it.”

“Okay,” he said.

A few weeks went by. I offered him my copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. “It’s really funny,” I said, “and you can read the whole thing in two hours.”

He glanced up from his phone. “Okay,” he said. Dylan likes books that are funny, and the dry wit in Hitchhiker’s Guide is tough to beat.

Several more days went by. Meanwhile, Shane – who had been diligently reading his independent reading selection for more than a week – started to panic. “I have to finish this by Thursday!” Shane said. “I thought May 11 was Friday!”

Shane then calculated the number of pages left in the book, divided it by the number of days he had left to read, and got to work.

Several more days went by. “When is your independent reading due?” I asked Dylan.

“I don’t know,” he said. (His teacher had mentioned it to both him, and me, and his case manager, on more than one occasion.)

“What do you have to do when you’re done with the book?” I asked. “Shane has to do some kind of worksheet. What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know,” Dylan said.

“You haven’t even cracked the book yet,” I said. “You might want to find out when it’s due.”

“Okay,” he said.

We went home and got into a skirmish over a testing calendar that I needed to see – a calendar that he’d lost in less than an hour after he’d received it.

“I’m going to look through your binder then,” I said.

“Fine,” Dylan said – then went to take a shower.

Inside his binder – catching my eye – was a paper about his independent reading project. He has to create a notebook based on five separate characters in the book, complete with a full cover, written character descriptions, and five collages of images representing each character.

The entire project – based on the book he hasn’t yet opened – is due in two days.

On my way to talk to Dylan about my discovery, I stopped to see Shane, who was lying on his bed, reading.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“I’m on page 140,” he said. “I’m trying to get to page 180 before I go downstairs, and then I can read later tonight to page 210.”

“How long is it?”

“It’s 260 pages,” Shane said. “But I’m going to start working on the project before I finish the book.”

“That sounds like a good plan,” I said to Shane.

Then I went to find Dylan, to tell him what he needed to accomplish in the next two days. I found him sitting on the furniture, laughing at his cell phone, completely un-phased.

He looked at me.


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