The Wonderful Perks of Summer Reading

It has been a wonderful summer and while there is practically a month still remaining of summer vacation, I have been pleasantly surprised by all of the campus visits we have had from our students over the summer. I have seen our kids come in to work on personal art projects, play in spontaneous pick-up games on our fields, and swim in our outdoor pools, especially during a monstrous heat wave in July. Most heartwarming, however, is the fact that they all come in to our academic buildings looking for faculty to hang out with and chat. It is truly energizing to observe our young people and adults sincerely enthuse about seeing one another again after just a few weeks of being away from one another.

My big question to our summer visitors is, of course, about their summer reading lists. When I have asked what were their favorite reads for this summer, the unofficial winners were:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Spiderwick Chronicles for lower schoolers, City of Bones and The Hunger Games for middle schoolers, and Divergent by Veronica Roth andThe Last Song by Nicholas Sparks for our upper schoolers. After ascertaining summer favorites, I ask them what they got out of reading over the summer. The responses were invariably thoughtful and interesting. First and foremost, they all thought that the summer reading was good, necessary and edifying. One of our more ambitious students said that outside reading helps to improve vocabulary and SAT scores. Another student said it introduced her to new cultures and helped her to be transported to different places and times, even though she never left the Island this summer. One of our youngest students said that it helped to improve his imagination skills. All of these comments made me proud of our bright and insightful children.

This summer, I am reading Andrew Delbanco’s book, College, What It Was, Is and Should Be. I am taking the liberty to take one of the comments in his book on education out of context, and I have chosen to apply it to the reading process instead. In the same book Delbanco cites a quote on education from the educational psychiatrist, William Perry, which again, I take out of context in order to apply it to the benefits of reading.

The gist of the message from these two scholars could be that reading allows a student to “accommodate uncertainty, paradox and the demands of greater complexity.” Through the process of reading and reflection,  a student “begins with simplistic forms in which a person construes  his world in terms of absolute right-wrong, good-bad; it ends with those complex forms through which he undertakes to affirm his own commitments in a world of contingent knowledge and relative values.” They might also affirm that the more a person reads, she is: “More than achieving the competence to solve problems and perform complex tasks, [reading] means attaining and sustaining curiosity and humility. It means growing out of an embattled sense of self into a more generous view of life as continuous self-reflection in light of new experience, including the witnessed experience of others [through reading].”

I hope that everyone continues to have a great summer and that all of you continue to enjoy your summer reading. Besides being fun, reading will make you a smarter and better person. It will humble you because the more you read the more you realize that you haven’t read enough. It will inspire you because it will allow you to view life from multiple angles and perspectives. There are many mysteries in life; reading good books is one of the best resources in helping you to solve them. Read on!