Saturday, July 6, 2013

Summer Reading: Freshman Edition

This is the first year that our school has required summer reading for incoming Freshmen.  Because we are a private high school, we get incoming Freshmen from a variety of area middle schools, some with strong reading programs, some without, so we decided to get all of our newbies started on the right foot with a unified reading requirement.  We debated (like every other English department in America) whether to require a specific book for reading or let students choose their own, but in the end we decided to do both.  We assigned one required book, Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris, as well as a list of novels to choose from that cover a variety of genres, lexile levels, and subject matter.  Below is the list of required reading:

Required Text:

Do Hard Things - Alex and Brett Harris (click here for the authors' amazing blog called the Rebelution)

Choose one book from the following:

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
A Voice in the Wind - Francine Rivers
Tears of a Tiger - Sharon Draper
Eragon (or another title from the Inheritance Cycle) - Christopher Paolini
The Lost Hero (or another title from the Heroes of Olympus) - Rick Riordan
The Lord of the Rings (of another title from the Lord of the Rings series) J.R.R. Tolkein
Same Kind of Different as Me - Ron Hall and Denver Moore
Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to get Back on Board - Bethany Hamilton
42: The Jackie Robinson Story - Aaron Rosenburg

One of the hardest things about teaching at a Christian school, is that all parents have strong opinions about the type of literature that we should be teaching in our classrooms.  Some parents feel that we should only teach "Christian" books (another blog post on that later - that can get quite lengthy...sigh), while others approve of any and everything.  Our department felt that the list above gave students (and parents) a wide choice with options that (hopefully) appeal to everyone.

Baby Girl is going to be a Freshmen this year, check out her book choices below (don't you just love when that box shows up on your doorstep!)

I'm planning to use NCTE's "50 alternatives to the Book Report" to start the school year.  Students will have to choose 3 of the options for their "choice" book as their 1st project of the year.  I'm looking forward to seeing how it turns out.  Any others assign summer reading?  What's on your list? What assignment do you give in the fall?


  1. We have a similar problem..we're not a Christian school, but we're a public charter with strong, conservative parents. We follow the standards, now the Common Core Standards, but we do have the choice of books we choose to teach. I have found that if I explain the purpose of the book and why some profanity or racial slurs are necessary, they seem to be a little more willing. Are you guys going to be following the Common Core?
    Tales of Teaching in Heels

    1. We also follow the Common Core, but like you, we have some flexibility in the books we teach. This past year we had to come up with a department-wide "Media and Literature Selection Policy" that included a section on "Why we teach what we teach" and laid out in detail how we choose literature, and the purpose of each selection. It's a good tool for being accountable for literature (and movie) selections, but it is a bit time consuming.


  2. I think your list is great. The Book Thief is on my top 10 all time favorite books! I have some of the other books but have yet to read them and others I have not heard of. I hope your students come to school having enjoyed their book selections!
    The Picture Book Teacher's Edition

    1. I too love The Book Thief, sometimes I use it in my Creative Writing classes to help students understand the idea of writing "voice," it's such a unique perspective to have death as the narrator.

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