Summer reading empowers students to grow as scholars and citizens


Photo credit: Illustration by Olivia Weinberg

By William Goldsmith, Assistant Opinion Editor

Summer reading challenges students to grow as critical thinkers, and it also provides students the opportunity to use books as instruments of stimulation and repose during the months of summer. As students come back to the Hilltop to begin the new school year, they do so with active, healthy minds. The Dial Editorial Board believes that Hackley’s summer reading initiative is benefiting both the mental health and academic achievement of our community.

The Dial acknowledges that some students have expressed distress with required summer reading. Afterall, if reading is an act of peacefulness, why must the English Department force students into doing it? Children tend to view obligations in negative lights. Requiring students to read during the summer may thereby negatively affect the very way in which students think about prose. Altering the way children view reading can decrease the amount of books students attempt to understand. After being asked about the effect summer reading has on the amount of books she reads per summer, freshman Cate Goodwin-Pierce replied, “I find that the number of books I read goes down because as the expectations among teachers rise, I feel more pressure to analyze the text and look for liter- ary devices, themes, etc.”.

It is true that summer reading may cause students to fret to an extreme about the nu-ances of the particular work they are reading, but becoming a better reader also requires one to pay more attention to such substantial elements of text in a more efficient manner. With regard to students’ perceptions of reading, English Department Chair Richard Robinson stated, “ … thoughtful student discussion about well-chosen, engaging summer texts suggests that many students seem to be stronger readers and more positive about reading after exploiting some time during the summer months to tackle texts they might not otherwise have chosen to read.”

The act of reading itself – the absorption, analysis, and application of prose – is at times a difficult, but also a rewarding endeavor. Reading is a fantastic way of increasing one’s happiness.

An article by writer Ceridwen Dovey of The New Yorker discusses bibliotherapy, “or the ancient practice of encouraging reading for therapeutic use.” Should reading be an instrument of healing and mindfulness, summer reading may also boost student morale and improve the happiness of the Hackley community.

Ms. Dovey further discusses how reading cultivates a “pleasurable trance-like state” in readers’ brains. Such “pleasure” may even increase students’ productivity after returning from summer vacation, as content minds are surely more efficient than distressed minds. Even students who are not fond of reading have expressed satisfaction with Hackley’s summer reading program. “I guess [summer reading] is a negative because I don’t like to read, but [summer reading] is also a positive because it gets me to read, which is good for your brain,” said junior Ben Monroe.

Summer learning loss, or the information students lose comprehension of over the summer, affects students across the country. “According to an article in the Washington Post written by education expert Linda B. Gambrell, extensive research has reflected that students fare better on tests that they take in the beginning of summer than the very same tests that they take just prior to the start of school.

thoughtful student discussion about well-chosen, engaging summer texts suggests that many students seem to be stronger readers and more positive about reading after exploiting some time during the summer months to tackle texts they might not otherwise have chosen to read.””

— Richard Robinson

Ms. Gambrell also notes that summer learning loss and summer reading loss, or “a decline in reading proficiency over the summer,” are tied to one another. Required summer reading is an effective way of counteracting such declines in “proficiency.” Given the direct relationship existing between declines in students’ reading comprehension abilities and summer learning loss as a whole, the simple act of reading may help children be even better overall students.

Some students have stated that summer reading drives them to read additional books. “I think that summer reading is my only motivation to read during the summer. Maybe if I enjoy a required summer reading book, I will end up reading more,” said senior Elon Middleton.

Summer reading books help provide English teachers a platform from which their classes can dive into discussion of in the opening weeks of school. Summer reading, therefore, provides English classes swift and enlightening beginnings to the year. “ … summer reading establishes from the rst days an intellectual context for the rest of the year’s work, and it fosters a community of readers, writers, and thinkers,” said Dr. Robinson.

The fact that summer reading books are assigned by the English Department, not selected by students, ought to be considered. Perhaps students would enjoy reading over the summer more if they had the chance to select their summer reading books.

While criticisms of required summer reading are indeed valid, The Dial Editorial Board believes such reading to be a valuable part of our community. Requiring students to complete work at home in the late hours of the night may also appear as a negative to some students, but such homework assignments make Hackley students even brighter. Summer reading is no different.