Dear High School,
This is my last push page of the 2016-17 school year. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you for entrusting us with the education and care of your children and for your continued commitment to Progressive Education. Yesterday was our last assembly of the year, our annual Book Talk Assembly. With that in mind, this week’s guest writer is our High School Librarian, Karyn Silverman.
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Imagine: 30 faculty and administrators, one after the other, stepping up onto the PAC stage to promote a beloved book to the assembled 8th through 11th grades. There was acting, oyster eating, provocative idea-sharing, laughter, cheering, and booktalking galore. Most of all, there was a sense of community embedded in this annual tradition promoting a love of reading. It’s no surprise that this is my favorite assembly of the year, but it’s also a moment beloved by students and adults throughout the community. We believe deeply in the importance of reading for fun, and our summer reading tradition is built around that platform. High school summer reading is not curricular, and if it’s informative (the list averages a third to a half nonfiction in any given year), it’s information for the sake of curiosity. We promote every genre, and we promote from the heart; the adults think deeply about what they’ve read and loved that the students will also respond to.
Occasionally people ask about our summer reading tradition. Why no classroom reads? Why no focus on classics, or the canon?
Recreational reading is a strong marker of success. Study after study correlates reading with higher academic achievement and often greater happiness. But you can’t grow a habit of reading independently unless you promote reading independently. By recasting summer reading as a process of recommending and sharing, rather than assigning or suggesting, we work to build reading into the fabric of our community. We model reading for fun, and for the most part model reading widely.
This summer, we’re adding an additional challenge to the summer reading list. Gene Luen Yang, the Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, has launched a “reading without walls” platform. It’s a simple idea: read outside your comfort zone. Cross genres and format. Read about a character nothing like you. Read about an unfamiliar topic. Try this one book at a time or go for broke and read one book that pushes you three times over.
We want students to ask questions, to push for a better world. We can only do this if we spend time building empathy and learning about the experiences that are not ours. Summer reading is one of the many places we can fulfill the LREI mission as a community, and allows students to live another life from the safety of their own homes.
We invite you to join us this summer. Check out the summer reading list (http:libresources.lrei.org/sr17), choose a book that falls outside your comfort zone, and read alongside your child this summer. And when you’re done, talk about what you read. Be passionate! Have feelings. And then trade books and read some more.