The question, “What are you reading?” is probably heard more frequently in the halls and classrooms at Ben Lippen than at most schools. The reason? Something we call Reading Break. In the middle of each school day, teachers and students take a break to read for pleasure for 30 minutes. Students can bring a book from home or grab one from the Reading Break shelves, teachers’ rooms, or the library.
Students share summaries of what they are reading in book-talks and reading journals in their English classes several times a week. After several years of Reading Break, reading has become the norm at Ben Lippen; obviously, some enjoy it more than others, but most students share that they enjoy time to relax with a book in the middle of the day. A junior recently remarked, “I didn’t enjoy reading and wasn’t looking forward to Reading Break, but now I love to read and always keep a list of books that I am waiting to read.” Others who claimed they “hadn’t read a book since elementary school” became passionate about reading. Teachers have started overhearing, “I can’t talk to him anymore; he is always reading a book” as students “complain” about their friends.
Why do we take time to read everyday?
Research indicates that college freshmen will be required to read between 200-600 pages per week outside of class, depending upon the rigor of the university and/or the student’s major. Students who have not developed a practice of regular reading in order to develop the stamina for sustained reading will find this a nearly insurmountable task. In addition, a multitude of evidence points to the increased need for reading in various 21st century professions; specifically, statistics show that in the business world a person typically spends two hours a day reading.
What about summer reading?
Because we spend nearly 10 months out of the year monitoring and assessing students’ reading, we do not require summer reading for all students. It is our hope that because students have developed a “taste” for reading for pleasure through Reading Break that they will choose to pick up a book over the summer. Also, because high school students have the ability to choose between many English seminars, assigning one summer reading book does not fit our curricular paradigm. That being said, many of our Honors and AP classes do require students to read specific books in preparation for the course, and if that is the case, students will be notified of those specific requirements.