‘Must’ reads fill summer for Hinsdale Central students
Some of the books assigned by the Hinsdale Central High School's English Department for students to read this past summer.
A sampling of required summer reading for English courses at Hinsdale Central:
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
On Writing by Stephen King
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Moonwalking with Einstein: The art and science of remembering everything by Joshua Foer
Updated: November 5, 2012 6:16AM
HINSDALE — A family murdered in Kansas in 1959, the memoir of a 13-year-old soldier in Africa, and an after-life that is neither heaven nor hell, but Elsewhere.
Such are the subjects Hinsdale high school students read about this summer to prepare for the school year ahead.
David Lange, chairman of Hinsdale Central’s English department, said summer reading was just beginning when he started teaching about 15 years ago, and it was just a book per level.
Since then, the reading list has grown to different books for each English course, two required books for some classes, and a choice of books for others.
That has led to debates: “Whether it’s to keep kids in the habit of reading good texts, or choosing books that will lead thematically and curricularly” into the start of their first semester English class.
Because different teachers have different approaches, “over the years, the kids get both,” Lange said.
David Anderson, chairman of Hinsdale South’s English department, said summer reading is all about teachers and students getting the new year off to a good start. He said summer reading assignments become an initial assessment of students’ English skills. Teachers look at those first assignments to gauge students’ reading and writing abilities.
“This gives teachers immediate feedback about how to devise instruction for their students at the beginning of the year,” Anderson said.
Books on the summer reading list are carefully chosen to compliment the curriculum in each course that the students will be entering. Books assigned to eleventh-graders at both schools focus on works that are related to the American dream, which fits well with the subjects they will study throughout the semester ahead.
At Central, students could read either Little Brother by Cory Doctorow or Matched, by Ally Condie. Both look at futures with more government control and less individual freedom. They also are nominated for the Abraham Lincoln Book Award, which is chosen by Illinois high school students, so the texts will be interesting to high school-age readers.
In the English 2 Honors course, Saunders believes 98 percent of the students read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, over the summer as required, plus one other book from a choice of three.
The teachers chose Unbroken, the true story of Louie Zamperini, an Olympic runner and World War II veteran who survived being shot down over the Pacific Ocean, because “we decided (the students) don’t read enough nonfiction,” Saunders said.
At South, incoming juniors were given three books to choose from, some of which doubled as summer reading for their American Studies course.
Parents, like students, are made aware of the summer reading requirements in plenty of time to complete the assignment. Anderson sent out a letter in May detailing not only the books to be read, but why they needed to be read.
“One of the most critical life skills is reading, since it not only develops critical thinking and builds vocabulary, but it also inspires students to discover the joy of a good book,” the letter read.
Sandy Illian Bosch contributed to this story.