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3 ways to benefit from required summer reading

Student reading outside
Student reading outside

As this school year comes to a close, many bookstores have unfolded their tables and placed “Summer Reading” signs prominently throughout their shops. Students’ sighs, however, are often just as prominent. After all, reading is the last thing on many of their minds as they become excited for summer vacation.

But this does not need to be the case! With the right frame of mind and the below suggestions in hand, students of all ages can enjoy that required summer reading. So, why wait until July or August to get started on those lists? Students can begin now with these tips:

1. Understand the specific requirements you must meet
Summer reading is a common pastime in American schools. Students in grade levels as early as kindergarten and first grade may experience some form of it, but it is a much more common expectation for high school students. This summer reading curriculum varies, however, from district to district, school to school – perhaps even class to class. AP and honors English classes typically carry an increased workload, with multiple books and formal writing assignments.

Speak with your teachers about their summer reading requirements. Will you need to document your progress? Will you be presenting on the material come August or September? Ensure you understand what is expected of you now. You are far less likely to receive such assistance in July, and it would be painfully frustrating to realize you misread the assignment sheet the week before school begins.

2. Exercise your right to choose
Your education is most meaningful when you participate in it. The average summer reading program involves one required text and a list of books from which students may or must choose additional titles on their own. Often, selections revolve around a common theme like a geographical location (i.e. the city of Chicago in Divergent) or a high-level concept central to teenagers (i.e. the individual in 1984).

Full disclosure – you may have no choice but to read the one required book, but do investigate all the options on the suggestions list. While time-consuming, it increases your likelihood of enjoying the material. If you locate a novel or piece of nonfiction that fits the themes but does not appear on the list, ask to read it. The majority of teachers will appreciate your effort to investigate the subject matter and will allow you to select that book.

3. Form connections between the material and your life
Students who excel in school generally do so because they develop personal links to the content they encounter. It is thus easier to recall and more relevant. Though it may seem difficult at first, the same result can be reached with summer reading. (After all, most class material is the instructor’s choice, not yours.)

Begin this process by exercising choice (see above) whenever possible. If you feel drawn to a particular book, it is likely because it reflects some aspect of you, whether past, present, or future. As you encounter points within the text, research them. For example, you might choose to Google genetics while reading Divergent. These side interests liven the book, and you may find that they ultimately serve as the basis for writing assignments that you must later complete.

Happy reading!

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