Too much to handle? An inescapable burden? As the summer comes to a spiraling end, Blake students reach towards the dusty cover of their mandatory summer reading books, beginning the recognition of literary concepts and the endless annotating. Fast forward to the start of the school year, sitting in English class and being introduced to the vast variety of books that will soon become a primary focus. The books that students are assigned to read in class are often a symbol of torment for many, but despite the enormous time commitment and multiple essays that follow, they are chosen for us to read for a reason, holding tremendous worth both inside and outside the classroom.
These novels are not only intended to spark further interest in literature, but also to provide a sense of unity amongst a grade, giving a class something to share and remember throughout their high school time. Patty Strandquist explains, “[the summer reading] provides common ground for a new class. Everyone does the same reading, and it serves as a beginning for discussion.” Eventually, this literature becomes a topic of conversation during lunch, free blocks, tutorials, and even on weekends, whether the students have a positive or negative opinion to mention. They broaden the concepts and the perspectives that were once limited.
Coming to accept what topics and themes are enforced in this reading is what partitions students from the position of despising to read to an indirect force to do so in order to better comprehend what is being exposed. Ranging from individuality, love, and loneliness to the appreciation of life or the inevitable confrontation with Death, students always find a way to be deeply rooted into the novel they are reading. For example, in Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (which is read in ninth grade), many of the principles that are taught to Kambili also are deeply rooted in feminism. Adichie’s book provides a lense into new ideas and stories that can intrigue the reader to become invested in something new. Again, these books are chosen for a reason and as Maria Orlandi ‘16 adds on, “It’s mostly about how your attitude it toward it, if you think it won’t be good, you probably won’t like it. So you have to accept the fact that you will have to read for English class to enjoy it.” A positive outlook on the required reading can lead to a greater enjoyment and understanding of the book itself.
Although it is often greeted with hesitation and is seen as an obstacle to enjoying the break from school, the summer reading, itself, becomes a thankful boost for this development that students come to appreciate in their English course; to truly reap the rewards of this reading, students ought to integrate it into their summers each year. “It’s good for us to do [the summer reading], it keeps our minds working, ” agrees Oliver Scher ‘18.
This assigned reading is meant to push us, as students and as individuals. Hopefully, instead of simply deterring from them, these novels will inspire us to keep reading.