Upper school students and faculty took a break from the bustle of the first week of school to reminisce over summer – summer reading, that is. For a half hour, students met in small groups with faculty members as part of ReCreate Reading, the annual summer reading program.
Over 30 groups were organized around a specific title proposed by a teacher and selected by students last spring. Available choices included Andre Agassi’s “Open,” Eoin Colfer’s “And Another Thing,” Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and Greg Mortensen’s “Three Cups of Tea,” among many others. Some groups, including all freshman advisories, allowed students to choose their books, precipitating rich sharing sessions.
Allika Walvekar, grade 12, had a hard time picking her group. “I especially enjoyed the variety of choices this year,” she said. Eventually she decided on a collection of Tennessee Williams plays facilitated by Jeffrey Draper, performing arts teacher.
English teacher Jason Berry, who led a discussion about the graphic novel “Road to Perdition” by Max Allan Collins agreed, saying “The breadth and depth of what is offered and the choice allowed in choosing a book signal that reading is not some dull, laborious task that must be suffered.”
A highlight of ReCreate Reading was a heavily subscribed discussion of the award winning “Columbine” by Dave Cullen. Cullen, who spent ten years gathering material for his reportage, participated in a live Skype session with over 40 readers in Nichols Hall auditorium. Enthusiastic students’ questions were delivered to history teacher and facilitator Ally Montana who queried Cullen.
“The amount of research he has done is incredible,” said Nicole Dalal, grade 11. “To talk to him about how much his work affected his emotional behavior was really incredible.”
“The interactive format of this ReCreate Reading session was extremely engaging,” said Pooja Shah, grade 10. “Being able to ask the author questions about his or her book is a great opportunity for everyone.”
Other groups enjoyed thoughtful discussions with their faculty leaders. Max Maynard, grade 11, reported his discussion leader “found thought-provoking questions that led us to study society as a whole.” That group discussed Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians,” a fantasy title described as “a sophisticated Harry Potter.”
Alice Loofbourrow, grade 12, echoed Maynard. Her group’s discussion of Max Brooks’ “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” was facilitated by science teacher Andrew Irvine. “We had fun just talking about zombies and what we’d do in the event of a zombie attack,” she said. “We also talked about the psychological components of the book and the idea of irrational fears.”
And yes, like most teens, Harker students did complain about summer reading activities; but they generally took a different tack than what might be expected. Most oft heard about the books: “Too short!”