Should summer reading be required? The high school teachers who I know believe it's important to keep students reading during the summer—but many also tell me that a good percentage of students don't complete the assignment—even students who have enrolled in an Advanced Placement course! Some schools have resorted to asking parents and students to sign a contract stating that summer reading and assignments will be completed.
What to read? These lists can cause an uproar. Last year, parents at a suburban Chicago public high school wanted Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian pulled from the required reading list because “it uses foul, racist language and describes sexual acts”—but it remains on the school’s list for 2010.
In addition to classic literature such as Rebecca, Brave New World, and Their Eyes Were Watching God, high schools assign an array of contemporary titles. Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees, The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, The Things They Carried, Outliers, Fast Food Nation, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and Three Cups of Tea appear on many required reading lists. This year The Help by Kathyrn Stockett and William Kamkwamba's The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricty and Hope are making their first appearances on high school required summer reading lists.
Here's a sampling of high school summer reading lists from around the country:
- Murphy High School, Mobile, Alabama
- Granville High School, Granville, Ohio
- Summit High School, Fontana, California
- Lake Mary Prep, Lake Mary, Florida
- Prosper High School, Prosper, Texas
- Pine-Richland High School, Gibsonia, Pennsylvania
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