Summer Reading: “Did You Really Do It?”


Digital composite by Janice Hendrick

Janice Hendrick, Writer

As we start this new semester on the block schedule, we ask each other in class, “Who did their summer reading?” or “Can I see your project?” when the question we should be asking is why are we reading these books? Of Mice and Men, Wuthering Heights, Animal Farm– what do all of these have in common? Yes, they are summer reading books, but they are also over sixty years old. We understand these books are classics, but how can we relate when we are reading books that are set in a time period not even our parents can relate to?

Mrs. Murray weighed in. “Novels that were written or first published over 60 years ago are filled with life-long lessons. For example, the vocabulary you find in novels 60+ years is enriched in vocabulary.  Studies show that the more a student reads, especially classics, the better he/she will do on the ACT, SAT, and college. Reading provides knowledge and knowledge is power.”

To be in 11th grade AP Language at Staten Island Technical High School, students read novels that are only 17-23 years old. “New novels always have the potential to be valuable in the classroom.  They are often written on a low reading level so more people can enjoy them.  It allows them to reach a greater number of readers,” said Murray. “Classics provide the reader with tradition, culture, and enriched vocabulary. I went to college well-versed in classical pieces of literature, had an extensive vocabulary, and had the ability to pick up any piece of writing without fear of not being able to handle it. I never questioned if I would like a piece of classical literature because I knew I would reap the benefits.”

Many classic books are about 25% cheaper than more modern novels. People who may be concerned about the cost of newer books can find more modern novels for  only $2 or $3 more per book.

Mrs. Murray suggested a few changes to the summer reading. “I am a huge fan of Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  When I taught this book in the past, I felt like it covered so many of the ideas and concepts that students need to read other works. Students learn about the author’s purpose, hero’s journey, rhetoric, perspective, quests, vocabulary, cultural expansions, and so much more.  I think it is a fabulous book to use with 9th-grade students.”

In all, new and modern books are beneficial and offer lifelong themes that can change reader’s life. With students reluctant about summer reading, maybe newer books would appeal more to them.

What do you think should be on the summer reading list?

In a survey of 23 students the following books were suggested: The Princess Bride, The Book Thief, The Hobbit, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Help, Enders Game, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Grapes of Wrath, 1984, The Female of the Species, The Fellowship of the Ring, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Fahrenheit 451, The Color Purple, A Wrinkle in Time, and Les Miserables.

The list goes on and on. Maybe it’s time to include more modern books on our summer reading list.