Incoming Freshmen Get Summer Reading Assignments
Many of next fall's first-year college students have thrown their tasseled caps in the air and are ready to pick up the sunscreen and surfboards, but there may be another item to put in the beach bag: a book assigned by the university.
In an attempt to welcome students to the college classroom experience before they even move into the dorms, a growing number of universities are dishing out summer reading assignments to their first-year students. The reading programs differ from school to school but commonly include group discussions during orientation weeks that continue throughout the fall semester.
Michael Arnushdirector of first-year experience at Skidmore College, which started its summer reading requirement a decade agosays the goal is to engage students early with a "proactive discussion of challenging reading."
Other colleges are giving that philosophy a try now, too. In Indiana, the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's class of 2011 will be the school's first to participate in such a reading program. Their Common Read is intended to ease the intellectual and emotional transition newcomers make when they arrive on campus, says Donna Gustafson, Rose-Hulman's associate dean of student services.
"These students are starting all over again, and the readings will be a catalyst to get discussion started, make new friends," she says. "Also, this is the beginning of a new intellectual level on a different plane." The popular novel the Life of Pi by Yann Martel is Rose-Hulman's first Common Read book.
The themes of books chosen for such programs generally parallel issues students confront daily in news and popular culture, such as the Middle East, the environment, poverty, and social justice.
Here's a rundown of some universities' summer reading choices:
Case Western Reserve University The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler
The Working Poor discusses poverty in America, starting with the smaller communities that make up the whole of Cleveland (the place Case calls home).
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A book of survival and personal faith, Life of Pi delves into man's relationship with animals and God, as teenage Pi is left stranded with a Bengal tiger on a lifeboat for 227 days.
Skidmore College Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
Kidder's account follows Paul Farmer's efforts to eliminate infectious diseases in developing countries.
Smith College Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
This graphic novel depicts a girl's childhood during the initial rumblings of the Islamic revolution in Iran. Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical perspective was adapted into an animated film by the same name, which made its premiére at the Cannes Film Festival in May.
University of Dayton The Price of a Dream: The Story of the Grameen Bank by David Bornstein
Following the business plan of the bank's founder, Muhammad Yunus, Grameen Bank brings capitalist energy to rural village life in Bangladesh.
University of Washington Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change by Elizabeth Kolbert
As talk of global warming pervades discussion in all major avenues of the social sphere, Field Notes brings a factual approach to the discussion.
At a glance:
College of Wooster The Riverkeepers by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and John Cronin
Colgate University The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery
Hobart and William Smith Colleges The Cathedral Within: Transforming Your Life by Giving Something Back by Bill Shore
Seton Hall University The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini