About our summer reading program
History In the spring of 2008, Westwood High School started a new summer reading program.
Our principal at the time Emily Parks, was interested in reducing the summer workload for our students who carry such a heavy load during the school year. We also had stated goals of promoting and encouraging reading, using reading to build community, to instill good intellectual habits, & to incorporate collaboration and cross-disciplinary practice.
We considered several options, but settled upon using the “It takes a village” model.
Inspired by the practice at Walpole High School, we asked faculty members to make a book selection and lead book discussion groups.
Each spring, faculty and staff offer suggestions of titles they would like to read and discuss. We also encourage students to participate in forming the initial book list. Once the list is formed, students are asked to explore the titles and to list their top three choices. Based upon their votes, book groups of between 5-20 students are formed. Books not receiving a quorum of five students are dropped, and multiple discussion groups of more popular titles are formed.
Students are expected to come to their fall discussion having read the book, and with a written list of quotes from the book, and questions to contribute to the discussion. Attendance is taken and written work collected.
The Results so Far
By and large, our students seem to like this model, and we find that the majority read the book and participate in the discussion. It is not a surprise that they appreciate the reduced work load, and also like that we strive to assign them the book they would most like to read.
A model like this is dependent upon the flexibility and good will of the faculty. So far most of our faculty and administration, and many members of our staff participate with enthusiasm (or at least with good humor).
One thing that I think most of us would agree upon is that as we sit together and share a snack and chat about the books we have read, we learn more about each other in ways we may not in the formality of the classroom, and therefore feel a stronger sense of community.