Books Summer Reading

The house was quiet and the world was calm.
The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.


—Wallace Stevens, “The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm”

Dear students, parents and guardians,

While many of us might describe the experience Stevens captures as “losing” ourselves in a book, the speaker of the poem might counter that we actually “find” ourselves and some vision of “truth” or “meaning” about the world as we construct the “conscious being” of a book’s printed words in the pages of our minds. But how? How can we get every one of our readers to engage as intensely with a book as an athlete with a ball or a musician with an instrument? 

Fortunately, two recent breakthroughs in learning research confirm the instincts we follow when we enroll students in summer camps and clinics, shoot hoops in the driveway after practice or work on that melody on the guitar long after the lesson is over. We get better at what we practice––both with a skilled teacher and independently.

The first consensus stems from Ericsson and Harwell’s groundbreaking work on “deliberate practice,” later popularized as Gladwell’s “10,000-hour” rule. Ericsson’s newest meta-analysis of studies on “deliberate practice” attributes more than 60% of the difference between the highest and lowest levels of performance of nearly any skill to the sheer number of hours devoted to such practice (Ericsson and Harwell, 2019). 

Even more strikingly, Allington and McGill-Franzen’s meta-analysis concludes that beyond third grade, the  “volume of reading drives reading achievement” (Allington and McGill-Franzen, 2021). Reading more books doesn’t just matter; it makes all the difference in proficiency.

So what can families do to create a culture of reading at home? First, we can make books, magazines and newspapers available by visiting libraries and bookstores. We can delve into and talk about what we’re reading now and why, what we think about it as we go, how we’re choosing what we’ll read next, etc. We can help students pursue their interests in books and structure their days so they have time to read. 

This summer’s reading assignments always make space for student choice (we recommend students read at least four to five books––anything that interests them!) in addition to the selection some courses will use as a springboard for discussion in August. Blake’s online bookseller, MBS Direct will open the week of July 11. 

Wishing you avid reading,

Rick Cawood
PK-12 English Language Arts Chair
rcawood@blakeschool.org

Follow the links below for Middle School and Upper School student summer reading expectations and challenges.

Middle School 
Grades 6-8 Required Expectations

Upper School
9th Grade: World Literature
10th Grade: American Literature
10th Grade: AP U.S. History
11th Grade: English Electives
12th Grade: English Electives
AP European History
AP Economics
AP U.S. Government & Politics