Sunday, June 21, 2009

TSS - Summer Reading Assignments

Last Sunday, Amanda at The Zen Leaf  wrote about a perceived lack of incentives and encouragement to keep teens reading.  All those great summer reading programs at the libraries and bookstores seem to have an age cut off of 12.  My first thought, as the mother of three teens, was 'required summer reading'.

In our experience, those summer reading assignments stared around age 12.  At that point, two of my three children were already avid readers. A trip to the library or  bookstore was all the incentive they needed. For my reluctant reader, however,  it can take the whole summer just to read the required books and complete the associated assignments. Any further reading program, regardless of incentive, would amount to torture.

This week, those summer reading lists came home. I've been a list lover for as long as I can remember, and am always curious about what teens are reading, so I couldn't wait to see what was included this year.  I'm betting that with all the librarians, teachers, and parents out there, some of you will be interested in seeing those lists, too!

Twin A attends a private prep school and has three books assigned for summer reading:

The Color of Water by James McBride  - for AP Language
10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America by Steven M. Gillon  - for AP US History
State of Fear by Michael Crichton - for Chemistry

Twin B must choose 2 books from the following list and write 5 one-page journal entries for each book. This is all for her 11th grade English class at the local public high school.

-The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
-Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner
-The Astonishing Like of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1 by M.T. Anderson
-The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
-A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
-Hole in My Life by Jabk Gantos
-The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
-I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak
-Monster by Walter Dean Myers
-A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
-The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
-Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
-Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
-Wicked by Gregoru Maguire
-Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
-I Am The Cheese by Robert Cormier
-White Oleander by Janet Fitch
-Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
-Gingerbread by Rachel Cohn
-The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- Breakfast of Champions (or anything else) by Kurt Vonnegut
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
-Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
-The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

- A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson
-Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking at the Harlem Renaissance Through Poems by Nikki Giovanni

Historical Fiction
-Mississippi Trial by Chris Crowe
-Hitch by Janet Ingold

Graphic Novels
-American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
-Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer and Randy DuBurke

-We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
-The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
-The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
-World Leader Pretend by James Bernard Frost

-Into Thin Air by John Krakauer
-Left For Dead: A Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis by Peter Nelson
-The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger
-Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and the Endurance by Jennifer Armstrong

-Hoop Dreams: A True Story of Hardship and Triumph by Ben Joravsky
-In These Girls, Hope is a Muscle by Madeleine Blais
-Lord of the Deep by Graham Salisbury
-Raider's Night by Robert Lipsyte
-Roughnecks by Thomas Cochrane
-Rundown by Michael Cadnum
-Bleachers by John Grisham
-Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher
-Any title by Patrick McManus

-How Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, and Lincoln Steffens Helped Expose Scandal, Inspire Reform, and Invent Investigative Journalism by Ann Bausum
-Thomas Jefferson: Draftsman of a Nation by Natalie S. Bober
-Who Was First? Discovering the Americas by Russell Freedman
-The Great Adventure: Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of Modern America by Albert Marrin
-An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy
-Stranded at the Plymouth Plantation by Gary Bowen
-This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie by Elizabeth Partridge
-Ben Franklin's Almanac: Being A True Account of the Good Gentleman's Life by Candace Fleming
- Yankee Doodle Gals: Women Pilots of World War II by Amy Nathan
-From Slave Sip to Freedom Road by Julius Lester
- The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon

No choices have been made yet but, based on Molly's recent review, I'll certainly be pushing for Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.  Did you have assigned summer reading? Was there anything that left a lasting impression? 

What will the teens you know be reading this summer?


  1. Great post! It's funny ... I was planning to write about what my kids have as their summer reading assignments, too (I decided to save it for another post. :)

  2. Thanks for the list! I'm checking it against the one I'm creating for books we need to add to our school library.

    My one qualm is the Michael Crichton book. From what I understand the science is skewed and it is basically and anti-global warming rant. Assigned reading for chemistry?

  3. Betty and Boo's Mommy ,
    Too funny - I just read your post and saw the mention of reading assignments! I'll look forward to seeing what your kids will be reading.

    Glad you liked perusing the list. I was quite surprised (OK, shocked) to see the Crichton book. I haven't read anything by him, but I will look into this one.

  4. That's great that they have all those choices! When I was in high school (required reading didn't start for me until I was 14), we were given two books we HAD to read no matter what. No choices or anything. I'm glad it's so much more diversified now. I do still think summer reading programs would be good for the 12+ age groups, if they WANT to participate. I don't think they should have to, but if they want to, they should have that option.

  5. Interesting post. I don't remember any Summer reading assignments her in U.K. in 1960's. However, I'm sure they'll be good choices on your lists, I see 'Little Women' is still there, you can't put a good book down, lol(literally!)

  6. Amanda,
    I was very pleased with the range of books on that list. Surely even the most reluctant readers could find something of interest there.

    I agree, too, that kids shouldn't be cut out of those programs the moment they turn 12 - so many would both enjoy and benefit from them. My oldest daughter and one of the twins would have loved to continue. When they were in the middle school, the librarian ran a voluntary book club (called the lunch bunch) which they both took part in.

  7. Zetor - Thanks for the laugh! Little Women actually is one of the books she is considering. If she chooses it, I'll be reading right along with her. I loved that book and reread it often!

  8. My daughter never had any assigned reading for the summer. Our library does have a summer reading program for elementary level kids though. The kids are given a reading log and receive a prize for every five books that they read. The little darlings are already asking when the logs will be handed out, I love that!

  9. I just wrote about needing some book recs for my boys as I want them reading this summer. A lot. I actually just picked up Speak at 1/2 Price Books for them to read, and I also chose Flowers for Algernon for my 16 year old to start with. Plus, he is working through a SAT prep manual this summer. He actually asked me to pick some heavier hitting books for him--our schools here do a terrible job with literature choices. I may pick a few off Twin B's list for Austen!
    Great post.

  10. Darlene - I love how the kids get so excited about those programs! Our library has a wonderful summer reading program, too.

    Kim - I hope you find something on the list he might like. I remember reading Flowers for Algernon, too. The SAT prep manual is a good idea. Last Christmas I got the girls a calendar that has an SAT question a day on it. They rolled their eyes then, but I see them checking it every morning...

  11. That's a really interesting list. I only had assigned summer reading one year, and had to choose from various autobiographies set in Germany around and before the time of WW2. I was really glad of it actually as I ended up reading some things I wouldn't have otherwise encountered.
    I hope your daughter finds something good on there - there are plenty of good ones to choose from and a good balance between old and more recent...

  12. Sadly, mine are past this so I'm not sure what the students in my area are reading this summer. I like the fact of the long list with so many different types of books. Hopefully, all students will be able to find something they can relate to. I really don't remember that far back to my summer reading. I know I had to do it, but nothing is coming back to me right now. I do know we were assigned books instead of being able to choose from a list.

  13. Verity - She is my reluctant reader, but with that long a list I'm sure something will strike her fancy. Thank you so much for visiting and taking the time to comment!

    Lisa - I don't think I ever had a choice with summer reading either, and I certainly couldn't tell you what I read. I was really impressed with the range of choices on that list. There will be only one more summer reading list for us - time goes by so quickly!

  14. Chemistry subject has reading assignment too?

  15. Matt - Seeing required reading for chemistry was a surprise for me, too!

  16. The Curious incident and The Part-Time Indian books are WONDERFUL!!!!

  17. Gigidiaz - I loved The Curious Incident, and think that may be one of the books she chooses. I'm not familiar with The Part-Time Indian, but I'll look into that one - thanks!

  18. I am happy that my public school didn't give out reading assignments. I would never had done it, until the last minute.

    My cousin on the other hand went to a Catholic school and had them every summer. That could be one of the reasons she doesn't read now

  19. Monique - Funny how kids react differently to summer reading. Two of mine love it, but I have to keep after the third or she would save it all for the last weekend. Which reminds me...I need to make sure she at least gets the books chosen this week! Thanks for visiting.


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