By Katie Budinger

A new summer reading program was implemented this summer for both students and teachers at Andover High School.

The list was compiled of twenty books across genres and styles for students to choose from instead of the previous two or three selections. Over the course of the summer, students were only required to read one of the twenty options, which they would then use to complete some sort of assignment in their English class when they returned to school.

A bulletin board in the English corridor displays the many books students could have selected to read. Displayed alongside pictures of the covers were titles, authors, who recommended the book, and, in some cases, a photo of the author or other details. (Photo by Katie Budinger)

According to the head of the English department, Ms. Ganci, the system was revamped in order to provide students with more opportunity for choice. Ganci said, “There have been some members of the department that felt that we really need to rework the summer reading program, and all of the data that has come out in the last ten years about student engagement really promotes this idea of choice, [and one of the goals is to] promote literacy by encouraging students to read in their free time.”

Some of the books may be carried into next year’s list, but new selections will most certainly be added. If anything, the list may even expand to include even more variety. The new program isn’t expected to change drastically for next summer, but the way it is implemented in the school and the classroom may be altered. Ganci has hopes of making it into a way to build more of a community. She is considering bringing in speakers and other ways that would allow students to connect over the books they chose to read.

Students overall seemed to respond well to the change. “I thought it was so much better because all the other years we had to pick from like two books, and this year we got to pick from so many and there were good options,” said sophomore Karli Robbins. She loved participating in small group discussions within her class with people who had read the same book as opposed to the traditional class-wide conversations that she had done in previous classes with summer reading.

Teachers like Ms. Niles, English 10 and Dramatic Literature instructor, loves the opportunities it gives students to find books they enjoy instead of forcing reading upon them. Her curriculum wasn’t drastically altered by the change, and if anything it gave more opportunities to connect with students based on what they read.

The wide variety of books that made it onto the list were determined by teacher recommendations. All teachers, not just those in the English department, were asked to recommend a book they read within the past few years and enjoyed. Critical acclaim, awards, genre, and diverse viewpoints were also taken into account when books were selected for the list. Difficulty of course was also a factor.

Ms. Ganci said, “[W]e’re trying to give the kids who want to stretch some opportunity to read something really difficult, but we also don’t want to alienate kids who don’t want to read something as difficult or heavy.”