Summer Reading Isn’t Working


Daulton Bahm, Assistant Online Editor

 In June, after nine and a half months of rushing to get to school by 7:25, five days a week and working hard on all kinds of assignments, most students are exhausted from all the schoolwork.  They are relieved to be on summer vacation, a period of 10 weeks off from school.  They now have plenty of time to go on vacation, go to summer camp, sleep in or hang out at the local swimming pool.  Students may not be thinking about school at all in the middle of summer.  However, Athens Drive has ruined students’ summer vacation for Honors and AP English students by requiring “summer reading” assignments.  These assignments are usually assigned at the end of the school year and in the cases of rising juniors and seniors, they are due on at the beginning of the first day of school.  No matter what semester a student will have English in the upcoming school year, the assignment has to be completed over the summer vacation, as it is always due during the first week of school.

        In the past years, and likely to be the case again this year, rising sophomores got the hardest summer reading assignments.  For example, in the summers of 2012 and 2013, Athens Drive required rising sophomores to write a 2-3 page paper answering a prompt regarding a book about the “human condition.”  Being assigned a book over summer is enough, right? Apparently, it is not enough, as  students have to read a book and write a long paper when they should be relaxing.  In addition to all of that work, it is not all: they also had to visually represent their examples of the “human condition.”

        While English teachers may argue that summer reading is good for students in the fact that it keeps their reading and vocabulary skills up-to-date, preventing the “summer slide,” the thing that is concerning is that many students may not be reading the books at all.  If someone types in the title of a book on Google, they can visit sites such as Wikipedia or SparkNotes that give book summaries of most books, including the books required to read for the summer reading assignments.  In addition, students may learn more during summer vacation if they have the time to engage in other educational activities than spending time doing a summer reading assignment.

Many students have their summers booked full of activities.  For example, a 17-year-old straight-A student named Sara Notte in N.J. was forced to give up her summer job as a lifeguard (which she worked to save up money for college) because she had to read 5 books for AP English, one book for AP History and some other work for her other classes.  In this student’s case, summer homework is threatening her college savings, which may end up decreasing her chances of being able to afford her dream college.  Over the summer, students may have other jobs to focus on that will leave the students without time to work on their summer homework, or they may be on vacation for an extended period of time where the assignment cannot be completed. Jill Notte, Sara’s mother, called summer homework “a full-time job.”  She is right because it causes plenty of stress during Athens students’ precious summer vacation.

Another concern with summer reading is that the books are not provided for the students.  If a student cannot find the book in the library and cannot seem to find the book at any local bookstore, they will not be able to complete the assignment.  If they are not able to complete the assignment, they receive a zero test grade, which can be in some cases strong enough to drop a student’s letter grade from an A to an F, significantly harming the student’s GPA.  The fact that a student may not be able to get into their dream college due to these summer reading assignments is ridiculous.

        Teachers just do not seem to understand the issues and stress of summer homework among students.  Some teachers will not even let students celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas properly anymore because they assign them homework over those breaks.  Now, rising sophomores, most of whom probably had no summer homework in the past, suddenly may never see much free time again as they will likely be entering the working world soon.  It is a good idea to keep students’ summer vacations free because many students may find themselves in careers that may never let them see a break in their life again until retirement.  It just is not fair that, despite the fact that students work hard for nine months, they have more work over summer.  Removing the summer reading requirement will also give teachers a break as they will no longer have huge assignments to grade at the beginning of the school year. It seems like today, “rigor” is overtaking “fun.”

The summer reading assignments for the 2014-15 school year have been released.  They can be viewed on or picked up in the English pod.