I always loved the idea of summer reading programs, even though I didn’t participate in them as a student (don’t give me any crap, either; I was working full time by the time I was a sophomore in high school, so I didn’t exactly have time to lug a book to the beach, you know what I mean?). Reading is one of the major activities of my summer as an adult, though. I love all the lists that come out, I can’t wait for my public radio to do their annual summer reading show (it aired today, but I was away from a radio, so I’ll listen to it tomorrow when it gets posted on their website), and I end up with a “my eyes are bigger than my tummy” situation in that my stack of books is often way out of proportion with the actual time I have during the summer to read them, but I don’t care. Summer, for me, means ice cream, salads, the Cape, the lake, and books – lots and lots of books.
For our first annual book list, I’ve taken the easy out and hit up the American Library Association’s banned books list as a starting point, though I’m telling students that they can read any novel they like. I’m thinking that, since I’m asking the kids to write a full-blown essay for every book they read*, I should give them some sort of incentive for doing the work. I’m thinking of giving each summer reader a few “pink paper” passes; while I’m not willing to let them blow off a major essay, I would be okay with their skipping a reading response or two. What do you think?
Why read? It’s a lot of work, after all, this reading stuff. It requires a lot of effort on our part; we have to take the time, we have to participate in the actual act of reading, we have to think and question and remember. It’s so much easier to watch T.V., where we can just sit back and let ourselves be entertained; the sets are designed for us, the lighting is carefully manipulated to convey a particular tone, and actors tell us exactly what we need to know.
Reading, though, engages us in ways that other media can not. Reading asks us to hear voices in our heads that are not our own, to see places we’ve never been, and to partake in experiences we otherwise wouldn’t have. Reading lets us travel in time and space, gives us insight into how others think and live, and asks us to be a part of the story. Reading opens our imaginative and intellectual doors.
Below is the first annual CHS Summer Reading List. The theme for this inaugural list is “banned books” and celebrates the right to read. This list is taken in part from the American Library Association’s Banned and/or Challenged Books (ala.org). Students may look online for other reading choices from the ALA, or they may read another novel of their choice; please don’t feel limited to this list:
The Great Gatsby; F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Catcher in the Rye; JD Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath; John Steinbeck
To Kill a Mockingbird; Harper Lee
The Color Purple; Alice Walker
Ulysses; James Joyce
Beloved; Toni Morrison
The Lord of the Flies; William Golding
1984: George Orwell
Their Eyes Were Watching God; Zora Neale Hurston
Of Mice and Men: John Steinbeck
As I Lay Dying; William Faulkner
Native Son; Richard Wright
The Lord of the Rings; JRR Tolkein
Students who read should write a brief summary of the novel(s), which should include a short description of the plot, personality sketches of major characters, the tone of the work (i.e., what message does the reader think the author was trying to convey?) and an explanation of the novel’s major theme. Along with this summary, students should include a 3-5 paragraph personal response in which they address a) whether the story (or the themes in it) reminded them of anything – a personal experience, a film, another novel, a poem, etc. and, if so, how the two experiences are similar, and b) what stood out for the reader – where did the story provoke the most emotion? Where did the reader see the story’s “turning point”? Which character changed the most, and why? These should be printed in plain, 12-point font on white paper and turned in during the first English class of the term.
Students who choose to participate in CHS’s summer reading may earn credit in their core English classes based on their summer work; students should consult with their individual English teachers to determine how credit will be given. If a novel crosses the curriculum, students may be able to earn credit in other courses (math, history, science, etc.) as well; check with your teachers.
If you have any questions about the summer reading program, or you would like a personalized book suggestion, feel free to email Mrs. Chili at any time. Happy Reading!
*understand that this in no way constitutes an expectation on my part that anyone’s going to actually READ. I’m hopeful, but only a little…