Why Summer Reading is Important

Summer reading is a controversial topic.  Should students be forced to read over the summer?  Is it better to let kids relax during the summer?  Is it worth the summer backslide that occurs without some type of academic work during the time out of school? Or does every kid deserve the chance to chill out and be free of responsibilities?

I think summer reading is important. However, I think that summer reading needs to involve a lot of choice.  Students should have a variety of books to choose from, in many genres, and they should not be tested on those books when they get back to school.  Summer reading should not hang over a kid’s head like a punishment that will rain down on them on the first day of school.  We need to provide choices and the students need to own their reading.

To kick off a week of summer reading-focused posts, I want to share a bit about the summer reading that my incoming freshmen will complete.

At my school, the freshmen are grouped together for the entire morning, five days per week.  I work with three other teachers and we are able to divide the class up however we see fit. The schedule changes weekly and the groups change at least once each marking period.  We have a lot of flexibility and that allows us to work together across the curriculum.  The team consists of myself (English), my co-teacher (history), the biology teacher, and the software applications teacher.    When I sat down last year to craft the summer reading list, I wanted to continue that theme of integration.  I also wanted to give the students choices. The books span a variety of genres and reading levels, both fiction and nonfiction. There is no test in September, but the students will refer to their books over the course of the year and their reading serves as an introduction to the Free Form Friday project they will complete later in the year.

I wanted to capitalize on our inter-disciplinary team and I’m so thrilled with what we came up with.  First, we decided to have One Book, One Class. All of the incoming freshman will be reading Brian Christian’s The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive for two reasons.  First, Brian is an alum and we expect the kids to love that. Brian was a year behind me when I attended HTHS and his book covers so many different subjects.  It’s a perfect match to the mission of our school and a great introduction for the freshmen.  Second, the book (review coming soon!) is a perfect composite of our cross-curricular team.  It covers science, language, communication, computers, history, and so much more.  All of the freshman will have this touchstone text and the teachers will be reading it, too.

In addition, each student is asked to select one fiction and one non-fiction title from the list we provide (See the end of this post for the list).  On the list, each teacher also noted our own favorites, in case students were seeking guidance.  I am thrilled with this list- it provides a wide array of choices in a variety of genres and across many levels (keep in mind my students are all accelerated, so while it is a 9th grade list, it may read more like a 10th-12th grade list).

By providing a list like this, I hope that most students can find something they enjoy.  Many of my boys are huge nonfiction readers and a few of them noted that this list was the first time a summer reading list included nonfiction titles.  How can that be?!

What about you? What is your experience with summer reading? Do you get to put together a summer reading list for your students or does someone at the district level do that? Did you enjoy summer reading as a kid? What about your own kids? Do they enjoy summer reading?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

HTHS Class of 2016 Summer Reading List

Fiction
Nonfiction
A Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams Collapse or  Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond jao
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card mtr As The Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth by Juan Enriquez mtr
Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster smg
House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green smg Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heigelman
Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope  by William Kamkwamba
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork  The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements by Sam Kean
The Road by Cormac McCarthy Measuring America by Andro Linklater jao
Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink
Unwind by Neal Shusterman Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Boy21 by Matthew Quick smg Spark: How Creativity Worksby Julie Burstein smg
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
by Aimee Bender
Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss
Robopocalypse: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life by Sandra Beasely
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, a Robot Named Scorch . . . and What It Takes to Win by Judy Dutton

Summer Reading Extravaganza!

Next week I will be focusing on summer reading here on the blog, with new posts every day.  Make sure to check in and chat about your summer reading plans!

Updated 9th Grade Summer Reading (F and NF)

Last year,  I shared the summer reading list that my colleagues and I developed for our incoming 9th graders.

Recently, our team sat down to hammer out summer reading.  (nota bene: I am not a fan of prescribed summer reading, but I do believe that students should read during the summer.  I believe in choice. Plus, my students are highly motivated and expect to read!)   I wanted to capitalize on our inter-disciplinary team and I’m so thrilled with what we came up with.  First, we decided to have One Book, One Class. All of the incoming freshman will be reading Brian Christian’s The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive for two reasons.  First, Brian is an alum and we expect the kids to love that.  Second, the book (review coming soon!) is a perfect composite of our cross-curricular team.  It covers science, language, communication, computers, history, and so much more.  All of the freshman will have this touchstone text and the teachers will be reading it, too.

In addition, each student is asked to select one fiction and one non-fiction title from the list we provide.  On the list, we also noted our own favorites, in case students were seeking guidance.  I am thrilled with this list- it provides a wide array of choices in a variety of genres and across many levels (keep in mind my students are all accelerated, so while it is a 9th grade list, it may read more like a 10th-11th grade list).

I recently finished updating the list for the class of 2016.  I didn’t make too many changes, but I did add and subtract a few books to keep the list fresh.  I also took into acocnt the advice my current freshman shared with me about their favorites from the list.  You can find the updated list below.

All incoming freshman are asked to read the following selection:

The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive by Brian Christian  (HTHS Class of 2002)

In addition, each student is asked to select one fiction and one non-fiction title from the table on the reverse side of this sheet.

You are to read TWO of these books this summer for your BASH (Biology, Applications of Software, Humanities) courses. You must read one fiction book and one non-fiction book. We hope you enjoy your reading and look forward to discussing your thoughts when you arrive in September.

Fiction
Nonfiction
A Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams Collapse or  Guns, Germs, and Steelby Jared Diamond jao
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card mtr As The Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth by Juan Enriquez mtr
Shipbreaker by Paolo Bacigalupi How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster smg
House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
The Fault in Our Starsby John Green smg Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heigelman
Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope  by William Kamkwamba
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork  The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elementsby Sam Kean
The Road by Cormac McCarthy Measuring America by Andro Linklater jao
CatalystBy Laurie Halse Anderson A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink
Unwind by Neal Shusterman Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacksby Rebecca Skloot
Boy21 by Matthew Quick smg Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein smg
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
by Aimee Bender
Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss
Robopocalypse: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life by Sandra Beasely 
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline Science Fair Season: Twelve Kids, a Robot Named Scorch . . . and What It Takes to Win by Judy Dutton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • The books listed above represent a wide range of choices and reading levels to meet the varied needs and backgrounds of all of our students. We trust each student to self-select the books most appropriate for them.  Feel free to try out more than two choices in order to find the best books for you.

  • Summer Reading

    This summer I had to pack up my classroom library.  No, I’m not moving classrooms.  I actually did that in the middle of the year. :)  And I am not changing schools, either. (Thank goodness!).  Just normal end-of-the-year cleaning.  Because I dread putting everything into boxes, I posted a message on our school’s electronic BBS and said that any students interested in borrowing books for the summer could come sign them out over a 2-day period.  I expected a few freshman to take a book or so each but I didn’t have high hopes.

    Umm, approximately 25 students came and borrowed books.  I signed out close to 100 books for the summer!  Some students took one book, others took closer to 10 books!  How awesome is that?  Freshman, sophomore, and junior students came to the shelves and browsed, signing out anything that interested them.  My students are all brilliant and heavily involved in lots of extra-curriculars.  They told me that they were looking forward to taking some time to relax and read this summer.  More than one of them came in with a list of books that they were hoping to read, books that had been on their must-read lists for most of the year.  Other students came in and asked for recommendations, both from myself and other readers.  It was awesome!

    I’ve never lent books out for the summer before because my sixth graders moved onto a new school after leaving my classroom.  It’s nice to have the ability to loan books to students over the summer.  Do you loan books out of your classroom library for the summer?

    Integrated Summer Reading

    I realize I haven’t posted much about school and my new job this year, but I promise to remedy that as the school year winds down.  Just as soon as I dig out from under this pile of essays and short stories that need to be graded….

    I am very excited about everything this year.  What I really love is that our freshman curriculum is integrated across four subjects- English, History, Biology, and Software Applications.  We have a common planning period each week and work hard to integrate as much as possible.  We do a ton of joint projects, work out schedules together, and share resources.  In addition, I co-teach with my history partner and our curriculum revolve around each other.  It’s fascinating to read The Canterbury Tales while my students are studying the Middle Ages.  It really brings a whole new dimension to class discussions and activities.

    Recently, our team sat down to hammer out summer reading.  (nota bene: I am not a fan of prescribed summer reading, but I do believe that students should read during the summer.  I believe in choice. Plus, my students are highly motivated and expect to read!)   I wanted to capitalize on our inter-disciplinary team and I’m so thrilled with what we came up with.  First, we decided to have One Book, One Class. All of the incoming freshman will be reading Brian Christian’s The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What It Means to Be Alive for two reasons.  First, Brian is an alum and we expect the kids to love that.  Second, the book (review coming soon!) is a perfect composite of our cross-curricular team.  It covers science, language, communication, computers, history, and so much more.  All of the freshman will have this touchstone text and the teachers will be reading it, too.

    In addition, each student is asked to select one fiction and one non-fiction title from the list we provide.  On the list, we also noted our own favorites, in case students were seeking guidance.  I am thrilled with this list- it provides a wide array of choices in a variety of genres and across many levels (keep in mind my students are all accelerated, so while it is a 9th grade list, it may read more like a 10th-11th grade list).  Come September, the students will be meeting with others who read their book(s) and producing a project related to it.  All of the books are connected to our school theme and inter-disciplinary team.  I am looking forward to seeing how the assignment is received.  I ran the list by a few current freshman and they loved it, and they’re the best judges!

     

    *I should note that these aren’t paired in any particular order.  Students are free to choose any F and any NF- they don’t have to choose them both from the same line.  One of the activities I am considering for the first few days/as an icebreaker, is having the kids come up with ways to pair the books, after reading them!

    Fiction J Nonfiction J
    A Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy  

    by Douglas Adams

     

    Collapse or Guns, Germs and Steel 

    by Jared Diamond

     

    *
    Ender’s Game  

    by Orson Scott Card

     

    * As The Future Catches You: How Genomics & Other Forces Are Changing Your Life, Work, Health & Wealth 

    by Juan Enriquez

     

    mtr
    Revolution  

    by Jennifer Donnelly

    How to Read Literature Like a Professor 

    by Thomas C. Foster

     

    *
    House of the Scorpion  

    by Nancy Farmer

    Outliers  

    by Malcolm Gladwell

     

    An Abundance of Katherines  

    by John Green*

     

    Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith  

    by Deborah Heigelman

     

    Nectar in a Sieve  

    by Kamala Markandaya

    The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope  

    by William Kamkwamba

     

    Life of Pi  

    by Yann Martel

     

    The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements 

    by Sam Kean

     

    The Road  

    by Cormac McCarthy

    Measuring America  

    by Andro Linklater

     

    *
    Nation  

    by Terry Pratchett

    A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future  

    by Daniel Pink

     

    Unwind  

    by Neal Shusterman

    * Omnivore’s Dilemma  

    by Michael Pollan

     

    The Monstrumologist  

    by Rick Yancey

     

    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks* 

    By Rebecca Skloot

     

     

    Summer Literacy Packet

    Last year I was inspired to put together a summer literacy packet after reading about a few other blogger/teachers who used them with great success.  I had a few students complete the packet last year and I awarded them 7th grade survival packs when they mailed the completed packets back to me.  Because my students move on to a new school after spending the year with me, I don’t expect to receive many completed packets.  However, I do like to give my students the option.

    This year I updated the packet a little.  I added a new week of activities that focuses on Shakespeare, because my students will be expected to read “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in 7th grade and I decided to give them an opportunity to become familiar with some of his work.  

    Week Seven: Shakespeare

     

    In 7th grade, you will be reading some of Shakespeare’s magnificent work.  William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright who is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language.  His surviving pieces include approximately 154 poems and 38 plays.  He wrote three types of plays- tragedies, comedies, and romances (also called tragicomedies).

     

     

    Writer’s Activity Choices Week Seven (pick one & put your initials):

    I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

    Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

    Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

    With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

    There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,

    Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;

    And there the snake throws her enamelled skin,

    Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.

             Imagine the scene as you read the piece. What do you see? You may need to look up some brief          definitions of unfamiliar words – for instance,  “woodbine” (honeysuckle) or “eglantine” (sweet-  briar).  In your writer’s notebook illustrate the scene you imagined, using the text as a reference.       Be sure to color it in! (Initial here, _______, if you select this option.)

     

    • Many of Shakepeare’s most famous quotes are still used today.  Choose one of the following quotes and in your writer’s notebook, write a paragraph explaining what the quote means.  In another paragraph, explain why this quote is still relevant to kids and teenagers today. (Initial here, _______, if you select this option.)

     

                                              -“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
 By any other name would smell                                                                           as sweet.”  Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

                                              -All that glitters is not gold.”  The Merchant of Venice (II, vii)

                                              -“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness,                                                                              and
 some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.”  Twelfth Night (II, v, 156-159)

     

    Reader’s Activity Choices Week Seven: (pick one & initial it):

     

    • Go to the library and check out a book based on one of Shakespeare’s plays.  A list of possibilities is below.  Shakespeare is tragic, gory, violent, and romantic.  It just depends on which story you choose!  Write me a letter-essay telling me your thoughts about the book.         (Initial here, _______, if you select this option.)

    1.     Romeo’s Ex: Rosalind’s Story by Lisa Fiedler

    2.     Dating Hamlet: Ophelia’s Story by Lisa Fiedler

    3.     Ophelia by Lisa Klein

    4.     The Wednesday Wars by Gary S. Schmidt

    5.     King of Shadows by Susan Cooper

    6.     <The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood

    7.     The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper

             You may also read any age-appropriate non-fiction or a middle grade version of one of his plays. Talk to the librarian or bookseller for more ideas.          

     

    I really hope that the students who choose to complete the packet do the Shakespeare activities because I think it will open up a whole new world to them.  The y seemed excited about the idea of it today, but the summer is long.  :)

     

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