By Abby Bordeau (‘22)
It can sometimes be hard for parents to keep their children entertained during the ten weeks of summer vacation, and some schools help with this issue by providing assigned readings for students to complete over summer.
It is important for students to keep using their critical thinking skills during summer as there can be long-term effects if they don’t keep their brains in shape.
“Good programs for summer reading also help keep students engaged in learning, teach them new skills, allow them to develop previously unseen talents, and foster creativity and innovation,” according to research cited in education website readingrockets.org.
English teacher Mr. James Noebels explained, “If reading and writing and speaking and all that is a muscle, then two months off, or maybe, even more, depending on how your June goes, is a lot of time to not be flexing that muscle.”
So why did SBHS discontinue required summer reading?
Mr. Noebels said, “It was very apparent when we made the announcement or gave the choice to say what [students] really wanted [to change] about summer reading, a lot of students said absolutely not [to required summer reading].”
The teachers gave online polls to the students to share their honest opinions about summer reading.
English Supervisor Mrs. Theresa Jennings said, “[The English Department] thought about what was going on about summer reading and we did three surveys. We did surveys of teachers, surveys of students, and surveys of the district parents to find out what they liked or didn’t like about summer reading.”
One thing that all groups agreed upon was that having a required summer reading was not accomplishing the intended goal.
“Most students think of [summer reading] as a burden, something they have to do. But I encourage them to think of it as something that they get to do,” said Mr. Noebels.
Mrs. Jennings echoed these sentiments.
She said, “A lot of the focus of our summer reading assignments in the past was comprehension-based where students were asked to respond to some journal prompts and talk about conflict or character development in a story. I would rather that a student is reading something that they love and be able to talk about that as opposed to them resenting and just skimming books. Maybe if they had the choice, they would truly understand and comprehend what they were reading as opposed to [reading] a book that they don’t want to read.”
It seems to the English teachers that it is more important to give students a choice on what to read rather than assign them something.
Mrs. Jennings assured, “As a collective group, the teachers still feel that if ultimately, the student is reading something that they love, they’re more willing to read.”
Students will still be given a couple options of books to read, but these options will not be required.
Mrs. Jennings explained that a list of suggested books for students to read over summer break will be on the school website to keep children engaged in analytical thinking. She also said that librarian Mrs. Lisa Manganello will hold days during the summer where students can come into the school library to read.
But can these options make up for the mandatory critical thinking skills lost in students this summer?
Mr. Noebels said, “We view that time as valuable time to keep sharp on your reading skills and your analysis skills so that when we come back to school in September, we can kind of hit the ground running. I don’t know what it will be like this year in September.”
Both Mr. Noebels and Mrs. Jennings encourage students to read what they like on their own this summer.
“We have a public library and we also have our own library here at SBHS. Mrs. Manganello and Mrs. [Bonnie] Parks, who are the librarians, are very open to letting students take books out for the entire summer. We do have lots of access to books,” Mrs. Jennings added.