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One of the goals of summer independent reading at Northland Christian School is to create for students an opportunity to make reading a rich, positive, and enjoyable experience. To achieve this goal, students must first get into – or not fall away from – the habit of reading. We believe students should be encouraged to follow the interests and passions they have developed over the course of their lives. In addition, they should be encouraged to read widely, both to explore new territory and to encounter minds and worlds they might not otherwise have sought out on their own.
Stephen Krashen (2004) reviews research on reading going back over 100 years. He reports that in study after study the research is consistent on one thing: when students are engaged in free voluntary reading—that is, when they have choice over the material they select—the benefits are profound. He concludes that such students will “acquire a large vocabulary, develop the ability to understand and use complex grammatical constructions, develop a good writing style, and become good (but not necessarily perfect) spellers.”
In addition, “their reading comprehension will improve, and they will find difficult, academic style texts more comprehensible. Their writing style will improve, and they will be better able to write prose in a style that is acceptable to schools, business, and the scientific community” (Krashen, The Power of Reading, Greenwood Publishing). Perhaps most importantly, these benefits accrue to students no matter what reading material they select. The significant variable is their development of the habit of reading – it becomes a natural rather than an alien activity for them to pick up and read a book, magazine, or journal. If this habit develops, there is a far greater likelihood that students will associate reading with pleasure rather simply with academic obligation.
To develop the habit of reading, and keeping in mind Krashen’s injunction that “reading about things that matter to us is the cause of literature language development,” all students in the middle and high school are expected to read a minimum of three hours per week – approximately 30 to 40 minutes per day. We encourage students to widen the range of their reading to include, for example, biography, short stories, nature writing, history, or poetry. Students should make their reading choices by grade level provided on our reading lists.
Our middle school and high school reading lists have been painstakingly compiled using summer reading resources from surrounding private and public schools and the Houston Public Libraries Network. Many hours of thoughtful research and reading went into compiling lists that provide a variety of reading interests as well as reading levels within the various grade levels to help meet all students’ needs.
This summer all students in middle and high school should read the required book listed for their grade. In addition, we encourage all students to explore a particular passion – whether that passion be baseball, birding, or botany – and they should feel free to do this exploration from a variety of sources, including books, essays, magazines, journals, and newspapers.