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

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

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