Summer Reading Breaks the Ice
by Christina Lin on Friday, September 19th, 2014
Required for almost all Humanities and some Social Science courses, summer reading is an inevitable part of any student’s life, especially at Milton. Every year, upon returning to campus, students discuss what they have read and catch up on what they have neglected. Though complaints concerning the unique injustice of Milton with regard to summer reading can often be heard in the hallways, most public and private schools throughout the country assign similar summer work. In my opinion, summer reading is an effective way to keep students learning and thinking over the summer, a necessary evil that we all must endure to better ourselves.
First of all, compared to other possible assignments, summer reading is actually a less stressful option. During my days in summer camps, I have met many people who not only have summer assignments in every subject, but also have assignments that involve actually solving problems and writing responses. Personally—and I think I speak for at least some of the student population—reading is something that I enjoy. Consequently, summer reading is just something I would do in the summer anyway, except that the books I happen to be reading are mandatory. To me, that sounds a lot better than solving pages of math problems and answering pages of questions. However, for students who have the rare summer assignment, they should work hard to make a good impression on their new teacher. With Milton’s slightly less stressful summer assignments, students experience less pressure to complete them and can instead distribute the work over the summer vacation, allowing for both relaxation and learning.
Secondly, summer reading gives everyone in a class a good discussion starter and some common ground. During the first few classes, especially for freshmen, discussions can be awkward without something to talk about. Everyone in the class has (hopefully) completed the summer reading and formed opinions on it; therefore, they often serve as a gateway to figuring out class dynamics. Otherwise, classes would have to start by reading a new book together in class, a method much less effective than diving right into open discussions.
Interestingly, many students with whom I have talked would not mind summer reading save for the book choices. From what I understand, the History Department, for example, assigns different books every couple of summers to see which book works the best. However, the unfortunate reality is that one book will never please everyone. US History students had to read Eric Jay Dolin’s Fur, Fortune, and Empire, and many thought the book was poorly written and inconclusive, though it spanned over 300 pages. Yet there are also those who think that it is a very interesting storybook and is not as dense and obscure as history books can be.
Of course, summer reading is at its best when the assigned books are exceptional and widely liked, something that the faculty is actively trying to achieve.
As much as we students complain about summer reading, it is, in fact, crucial to our development as students. It allows us to learn outside of the stressful environment a school setting can often create, and it helps inspire discussions during the first few weeks of classes as we make our way into a new school year. And even if the summer reading was widely hated, at least the teachers will know never to give it to another class ever again.
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