November 20, 2019

Should summer reading be required?

By Dillon Hourican ’18, Executive Business and Managing Editor

A study conducted by the Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy yielded that thirty two million adults in the United States cannot read, which accounts for fourteen percent of the American population. To make matters worse, twenty one percent of adults read below the level expected of a fifth grade student.

In an effort to reduce the number of illiterate adults in America, the vast majority of schools issue summer reading for students of all ages. Elementary school teachers estimate that they spend several weeks of the school year teaching reading skills students lost over the duration of the summer.

“Summer reading is important because students need to be involved  with critical reading and analysing something that has value,” said esteemed English teacher Craig Mustard.

Although summer reading is a mundane task of which completion is mandated before the school year commences, I do believe that summer reading is a necessary aspect of the high school experience.

As dull as it is, each year I find myself sitting down at my desk in the first week of August when the commencement of the following school year seems around the corner. I open the book I bought before the previous school year ended out of the irrational fear that the book mysteriously might become unavailable later in the summer.

Withall, I do not believe summer reading should cease to exist as part of the high school experience. Although completing the summer reading itself is a mundane process to say the least, summer reading aptly prepares students for the challenges they will face in the coming year.

Mustard also raved about the value that 1984, the summer reading requirement for incoming juniors, plays an important role in the launch of the new school year. Mustard spends a significant amount of time each year discussing the book in class due to its “tremendous value.”

The first assignment in Mr. Mustard’s honors English class freshman year required students to write an in class essay thematically connecting the required text, Unbroken, to a supplementary text chosen by the student. This assignment was fewer points than essays written later in the first quarter.

The summer reading paper enabled students to assess the grading styles of their new teachers on a lower stakes assignment than a traditional essay. The essay also helped me develop critical thinking skills needed for later in the year. For the assignment I had to find a common theme in Unbroken and America Again Re-Becoming the Greatness we Never Weren’t.

America Again Re-Becoming the Greatness we Never Weren’t  is a humorous satirical novel written by comedian Stephen Colbert.  The novel has no plot and a book of criticisms of America starkly contrasts a book about a war hero. Having related the two novels on the common ground of theme helped me prepare for assignments later in the year.

Despite the fact that summer reading is a dull aspect of each summer, it helps students hit the ground running after a two month vacation and establishes the standards for the year to come. Removing summer reading as commonplace at the high school could cause students’ term one grades to decrease, since they would not have as much time to get back into the groove of the school year or learn the expectations of their new teachers

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