Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Summer Reading

My local school district no longer has a summer reading list.  While I think it's a shame, it's just as well since they hadn't updated the reading list for at least 20 years AND the teachers never discussed the assignments once school was back in session.

When my daughter was going into 11th grade she had to read The Scarlet Letter.  She hated the book!  As it turns out, so did her teacher.  He assigned the book during the summer because he didn't want to teach it.  This is very unfortunate.  The reason I loved this book was because my teacher loved it.  We cannot underestimate the power of our opinion on our students.

When I was working in Independent Schools, students not only had to read over the summer, they had to enter the class with a full essay -- typed and double-spaced, complete with quotes -- about the book.  Students were expected to enter the class prepared to discuss the book.

Both scenarios seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Summer reading should be enjoyable, but it should also be meaningful.

I just applied to a job at Bronx High School for Science.  Their summer reading requires students to keep a list of vocabulary words.  Since vocabulary development is valuable in getting students college ready, this seems like a pretty good assignment.  Further, all the students are reading the same book so they'll enter with a discussion starting point.

No doubt students need to do more reading, but if the assignment is not valued or too boring, none will get done.  As teachers, we need to consider what our students can do while thinking about how to get them to willingly do the work.  Assign good, contemporary books that are page turners and not too long.  That way, even reluctant readers may give it a shot.

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