Summer reading is a political topic these days. Should students be assigned a required summer reading book or should summer be about reading what ever one likes? Should students be allowed to have choice in what they read? How many texts should students be required or expected to read over the summer?
This year, my colleagues and I decided that instead of a required summer reading text, students could read any book of their choice. Incoming students were given a suggested book list created by students that included many contemporary titles both fiction and nonfiction.
With a wide range of summer reading books, how does one assess students? Rather than a creative book reflection and project, I have turned to the traditional essay to assess student reading. This assessment is not one that is graded, but used as a gauge of reading tastes and gain data of students’ reading and writing strengths and weaknesses. I use these assessments to help guide my teaching of reading and writing at the start of the school year.
My summer reading assessment prompt stems from the poignant essay What we Hunger For written by Roxanne Gay.
This essay is honest, harrowing, reflective, and offers a personal response to the Hunger Games trilogy. The author begins by highlighting the representations of strength in women like Katniss and then brings in her own personal experiences that shaped her reading and admiration of strength in the “flawed” protagonist of Suzanne Collin’s books. Gay addresses the negative response to the violence in the trilogy and through her personal confession offers a counter claim against telling young people what they can and should read. She brings in supportive arguments from contemporary YA authors like Sherman Alexie to support her claims. Gay concludes with her analysis of Katniss as a strong and relatable character by highlighting imperfection in and all around us. This essay is powerful and inspiring. I knew it was something I wanted to share with my students.
For my 8th graders, I have edited the essay to use as a mentor text. I want students to think about the central ideas in their summer reading books and how it shapes their thinking. How do the books we read over summer time support us and sustain us?
I look forward to what my students share with me. What are the books they read over summer vacation, and the lessons they share with me.
Do you have a unique or thoughtful summer reading assessment? Feel free to share in the Comments section on this blog.