Using a survey conducted last year of 1426 students in seventh through 12th grades in both campuses regarding summer reading, the Curriculum Department and English Department Chairs of both campuses took the feedback they received to generate a broad list of books with multiple project options. 62.3 percent of the students who answered the survey said they wanted students to be able to choose their own books for summer reading.
In previous years, students were required to go onto Actively Learn, choose one of the books available and answer its respective questions while reading. However, that was changed for this year; the medium Actively Learn was replaced with Padlet.
The reasoning behind the Padlet choice was because of its functionality, its ability to allow students to rate the books they read and because it showed various genres and books students could choose from.
The departments mentioned above chose books for the summer reading list this year that encompass a wide range of genres, such as biographies, historical fictions and poetry collections.
“I like being able to provide students with choice, which was the number one request from the survey,” Director of Curriculum and Instruction Sari Weltmann said. “Although I am an avid reader, and yes, have read many of the books on the list, not everyone likes the same thing, so we wanted to tap into students’ varying interest levels while still meeting educational goals.”
The works were chosen based on certain criteria including: grade level, age appropriateness, readability, diversity of author and theme, interest level and popularity ratings.
The books were cross-referenced to ascertain they would not be used in the curriculum during the school year.
“We are happy to have a unified summer reading list between our campuses, Heritage and Academy. It took a lot of teamwork – special thanks to the principals and English department chairs who supported the change and contributed to the effort,” Weltmann said.
The top three books and their ratings include: “Ready Player One” (rated 4.5 stars by 169 people), “The Maze Runner” (rated 4.5 stars by 125 people) and “The Hobbit” (rated 4.5 stars by 48 people). The most popular genres were Fantasy and Science Fiction, whereas the least popular genres were Short Stories and Poetry.
In regards to both Advanced Placement (AP) English classes, all of the books in the summer reading list have been previously established in both of the curricula.
For the AP Language and Composition course, students had the requirement to read “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Great Gatsby,” the latter of which was a replacement of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” in order to integrate that book into the curriculum rather than summer reading.
“The skills I teach during the first few weeks of school help my students refine the lens through which I’d like them to analyze their summer reading novels. In other words, the ways in which they initially came to understand the sequence of events, character motivations, authorial intent, among other aspects, tends to change once I’ve given them this new lens,” AP Language and Composition teacher Mrs. Raquel Bolanos said.
“I want them to experience that power; I want them to come in thinking one thing (or way) about the novels and then see them in a completely different light.”
For the AP Literature course students had to read “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer. The material did not change this year for this course.
“In AP Literature, we use summer reading to teach and reinforce the fundamentals of literary analysis. Students will also consider those books, among other major works we will read, as they decide on which texts to study for the AP exam’s open question,” AP Literature teacher Jennifer Bolanos-Cadenas said.
Summer reading changed mainly for other English classes to allow students to make their own choices, while the reading list stayed generally the same for both AP English courses.