Every year, students must read during the summer to ensure that the students are prepared for school in the fall. Chairwoman of the Upper School English Department Marsha Durlin shed light on why summer reading is so important. “I think summer reading gives a jump start to the class,” she said. According to Mrs. Durlin, it allows the teacher to immediately dive into the structure of the class: how discussions, essays and tests will work.
Typically, the book also introduces the themes of the course. For example, sophomores read “Purple Hibiscus,” which is set in modern Nigeria, a British colony in the 19th century and early 20th century. Sophomores take European history, so “Purple Hibiscus” helps introduce them to some of the concepts of their history classes.
All of the books that students read this summer can be found on the Pace website under the Woodruff Library section. These books include “The Hate U Give” for the freshmen, “Purple Hibiscus” for the sophomores, “Life of Pi” for the junior CP and AP classes, “David and Goliath” for the junior honors classes, “The Martian” for the senior CP and honors classes and “White Teeth” for the senior AP classes.
“We put a lot of time and thought into it,” said Mrs. Durlin. “The teachers that teach all at the same grade or class level will look at a list that people come up with that they think will be good for summer reading.”
Last summer, every student read “The Hate U Give,” and Mrs. Durlin explained that they decided to keep this trend for the freshmen class. “It does oddly enough introduce the idea of “The Odyssey,” which is the big book for the fall semester for the 9th grade,” she said. “The main character Starr Carter goes through so many changes that she herself becomes a hero in the book, as she is moved beyond her fear, guilt and silence.”
Students from each grade level also had a lot to say about their summer reading books. Freshman Claire Jiang was excited to share her passion for “The Hate U Give.” “It addresses real-world affairs that teenagers should be aware of. Angie Thomas emphasizes strong messages throughout the story such as community activism, the importance of speaking out and systematic racism. I appreciate the opportunity to read such an insightful and powerful novel,” said Jiang. Meanwhile, Sophomore Henry Levenson also learned a lot from his book. In “Purple Hibiscus,” the main character goes through abuse but slowly learns to speak out for herself more. “The book made me want to try to think for myself more,” said Levenson.
The upperclassmen also had a lot to share about their books. Junior Marit Uyham read and enjoyed “Life of Pi.” “It taught me about the power of faith and imagination,” said Uyham. Similarly, senior Kate Jonas also enjoyed her book, “White Teeth.” “There was a lot of humor, and it was interesting to see how the stories of characters from very diverse backgrounds wove together,” said Jonas.
In addition, students had the opportunity to read parallel books over the summer from the suggested list as an opportunity to get extra credit points added to their English average. Every 100 pages counts as a quarter of a point, with the maximum at 400 pages. Teachers will then assign an essay for their students to write in order to receive extra credit. These books can also be found on the Pace website.
Within about five school days, every English class will take a quiz after discussing their required book. Some of the teachers may assign a paper on the book, but others will move on to the work of the course.
“Summer reading is something that the English department really put a lot of time and thought into,” said Mrs. Durlin. “It feels like a good way to start the year in English.”