The Harbinger Online

Staffer Reviews Summer Reading

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If you accept the challenge of Honors or AP English, you are guaranteed a summer reading assignment. There’s no escaping it. You don’t have to sacrifice your entire summer to reading, annotating and writing essays about a seeming meaningless book. Even if it doesn’t take your whole summer, reading about something you could care less about may not be the highlight of your summer. All the books seem tedious, repetitive and confusing.

With the availability of summaries, shortened versions and study guides from websites such as SparkNotes, reading the book has almost become optional. With these services, avoiding fully reading the books and only getting the basics is getting easier and easier. If you can find a summary of the book online, not learn anything and hate the book, why would English teachers make you waste your time and read it?

There are more reasons that  teachers assign these books than just to torture you. The books they pick have specific themes, ideas and literary elements that will help you prepare for the coming year. Teachers understand that people are busy during the summer. The work helps you understand the books and prepare you for discussions and tests once school starts. They pick the books for various reason, not just to ruin your summer but to get you prepared for class.

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“The Book Thief”- an interview with Ms. Beachy

Why did you choose this book?

“The way that it was chosen was Ms. Bramley and I had each read it and adored it. We absolutely thought it was one of the best books we had read in a long time and we just had such a love for the book.  We thought, wow, this would be great well sort of transitional book between middle school and high school.”

What makes it a good book for freshman to read?

“This [book] deals with World War II… So we thought students can use all of the information that they gained in eighth grade and apply it to this literature. We thought this will be a good  and it was challenging enough morally and academically.”

How long have your students read this book?

“Maybe 4 years. This years’ seniors read it and they may have been the first group… it might be more than 4 years, it might be five [but] as a department we decided that for teachers for honors we all would have a summer reading assignment. We wanted to be constant with the grade levels.”

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“All Quiet on the Western Front”- an interview with Mrs. Fry

Why did you choose this book?

“I actually did not choose All Quiet on the Western Front for a summer reading book. For 10 honors, there were two teachers already established as 10 honors teachers, Mrs. Burt and Mrs. Gehring-Lowery, and when Ms. Burt moved up I took her spot. I had very little say, I could have, but I didn’t choose to.”

What makes it a good book for sophomores to read?

“It is a just a beautifully written book. It has themes throughout which I think are pretty easy for students to recognize… and I think it is an important piece of literature because it is told from the German standpoint, which doesn’t often happen. It also kind of sets the tone for these themes throughout the year.”

 How long have your students read this book?“For sophomore English, it’s been on the curriculum list for at least 12 years.  However, sophomore honors decided to move it to make room for others during the year. We felt that it was accessible to kids and that the kids could get it.”

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“102 Minutes” & “Tipping Point”- an interview with Ms. Tucker

Why did you choose these books?

“I chose them because junior AP focuses on argument and non fiction, so I try to find the specific criteria that I look for when I chose them.  One has very strong argumentation, argument to persuade, and presents some information in a different way.”

What makes it a good book for juniors to read?

“It needs to be at least college level writing and it needs to fit the criteria of the class, so, as I mentioned, it has to be argument and non-fiction for this class. It also has to be easy enough that a person could read it on their own and teach themselves, without any instruction from me.”

How long have your students read these books?

“I just chose them over the summer. I try to chose different outside reading every year, and they wind up going on an outside reading list  for the school.”

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“Lord of the Flies” and “How to Read Literature Like a Professor”- an interview with Ms. Bonjour

“I am the department chair, I don’t know if I had final approval or anything like that, but we all had to discuss it as a department… those final decisions are made by the grade level PLC and then AP 11-12. And all of the books are on our approved reading list given to us by the district.”

What makes these good books for seniors to read?

“[It’s] a how-to book, really, getting students to recognize patterns, recognize it’s not just about the fact that it’s raining, it’s never just raining…. [It helps] develop a shared vocabulary to take us into the rest of the year.”

How long have your students read these books?

 “I always do How to Read Literature Like a Professor, and I change up the novel. It’s not always the same two. As long as it’s me, I would love to have How to Read Literature Like a Professor.”

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