Open a Window and Start Your Summer Reading
After a long 9 months of non-stop school work, students are more than ready to shove their backpack into the depths of their closet and slip into the lax summer mindset. Much to their dismay, required summer reading stands in the way of said peace. In the past, summer reading has often been a task pushed aside until the end of summer, and while some students will eagerly finish ten books, others struggle to meet the requirement, or don’t even try at all.
For this coming summer, the library has instituted change to the requirement, switching the choice of three books from a long, grade-specific list to choosing one title from a shorter list of memoirs.
Because it is hard to find one book that fits everyone, past attempts at grade-wide requirements proved to be perfunctory. Even when students were offered a choice of books, they had little connection to the titles, and the reading felt forced. Additionally, there was not much mention of the assignment once school started, so students felt it was unimportant and were not motivated to complete it.
On the contrary, the new summer reading assignment caters to the Packer mission statement of thinking deeply, speaking confidently, and acting with purpose and heart. Andrew Parson, Library Department Head, hopes that the new assignment will allow students to understand why we are reading the kinds of books we read.
Out of the many literary categories, memoir was chosen because of its ability to connect the reader to the narrator, and, as Mr. Parson noted, gives us the opportunity to “have a window into somebody else’s life.” The list of memoirs represents a wide range of experiences, providing a “mirror” for kids who do not usually read books about people like themselves while also encouraging other students to look into a life unlike their own.
In addition, we get to experience a new type of literature, considering that “memoirs are not typically built into that much of our curriculum,” according to Emma Weseley (‘20). It is “beneficial to have students be reading a variety of genres,” and we are lucky to broaden our literary horizons.
This is the first year that this assignment is being tested, and depending on how students respond to it, the assignment may be slightly altered. As of now, Mr. Parson is planning on continuing the narrative format. Currently, he is working on plans for, ideally, student-facilitated beginning-of-school book discussions for students to share thoughts with others about the memoir they read.
The library worked carefully when choosing books in order to assure that every student would find one that piqued their interest. An advocate of finding the joy in reading, Mr. Parson “[does] not enjoy having to read a book solely because it is a book club book.” He believes that being forced to read takes away the joy that the assignment seeks to bring out in students. Finding recent books through reviews, book lists, best books, personal experience, and friend recommendations, allowed the library department to curate a list of titles which are destined to push us to find this love.