What do University of Florida, Carleton, Skidmore, University of Vermont, and Syracuse have in common? They all require entering freshman to read an assigned book over the summer.
What do Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, Mark Haddon’s The Strange Incident of the Dog in the Night, Kite Runner, and Memoirs of a Boy Soldier all have in common? You guessed it; they are typical examples of books that are required reading for various colleges’ entering classes.
Why are colleges requiring such reading? It is the push toward intellectual, not literary, appreciation in reading. Also many colleges are trying to cultivate a common foundation of values, and many of these books look at social issues or heroic struggles.
Such reading also develops both self understanding and individual growth, and more colleges are interested in promoting a new impact, that of global understanding, according to Tamar Lewin’s New York Times article from this August, 2008.
Assigned reading seems worthwhile, so don’t shirk this assignment. Reading a book everyone else in your in-coming college class can encourage conversations and getting to know people as well as serve as background for some of the common classes taken by first -year students.
If nothing else, required summer reading promotes a life skill, reading books for discussion and social interaction such as joining neighborhood or professional book clubs. It might not hurt to pick up one of these books this August before going off to college, even if you haven’t been assigned the reading!
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