The Value of Summer Reading: A Teacher’s Perspective


If you asked any high school student, they would most likely deny the value of summer reading. The last thing kids want to worry about during their time off is finishing 400 pages of a book they didn’t even choose to read. It’s tedious, demanding, and sometimes, plain old boring.

However, there is without a doubt value to assigning summer reading. Mrs. McDonald, an English teacher at Pascack Hills, sees both the pros and cons to assigning summer reading to students. This past summer, she notes that only her AP students had received any summer reading.  Her Honors English II and Journalism classes were not required to complete any reading. When Mrs. McDonald first arrived at Pascack Hills, every English course was assigned reading to complete over the summer vacation.

After assigning two novels, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and The Overachievers by Alexandra Robbins, Mrs. McDonald assessed the value of the reading experience as a whole. Seeing as both are generously thick books, she feels next year she may only assign The Overachievers, because she noticed that book possesses more relevance to the lives of her students, therefore they will be more inclined to read and respond to the text.

There are two sides to every story, and Mrs. McDonald sees it from both perspectives. As a teacher, she likes the concept of summer reading. Not only does it give her a reference point to work with at the beginning of the year, but it also allows her to assess the thought processes of her students and see their growth over time.

In the same respect, Mrs. McDonald understands and appreciates her students’ time. She empathizes with the kids, and understands that no one wants to do work over the summer – that is our time to have fun. Because of this, she ensures that her assignments and assessments are worthy of her students’ time and energy. Mrs. McDonald likes to use the readings as a jumping point for projects, and uses them as incentive to dig into deeper topics and discussion.

At the end of the day, the tug of war of summer reading is a difficult battle to win. For English teachers everywhere, summer reading has had a less visible presence in the classroom; however, it goes without saying that stimulating the mind over the summer comes with many benefits. Although students are hesitant to enjoy assigned readings during their vacation, teachers are trying their best to make the reading applicable, relevant, and above all, valuable.