Innovative Program Fosters Love of Reading
‘MC Reads’ described as “the single most effective one day, one period, one hour piece of instruction” that Mill Creek has undertaken.
A fabulous success.
That is how Mill Creek principal Dr. Jim Markham described the school’s new summer reading program.
“As a curriculum initiative, it’s probably the single most effective one day, one period, one hour piece of instruction that we’ve done,” he said.
The program, MC Reads, is designed to allow students greater choice in selecting books, remove the pressure of graded assignments and encourage students to read for pleasure. Instead of being the exclusive purview of the language arts department, the new summer reading program involved every teacher, counselor, media specialist and administrator in the school.
Each faculty and staff member selected a book to read over the summer. Books ranged from young adult titles such as “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” to heavier fare such as “The FairTax Book.” Students were allowed to choose which book they wanted to read. On Friday, Sept. 16, students met in groups to discuss their chosen book with the teacher or staff member who also selected the book.
For his book, Markham chose “Mr. Midshipman Hornblower” by C.S. Forrester. Markham is a long-time fan of the Hornblower series of books.
“It was great,” Markham said of his group discussion. “We talked about the Napoleonic era. We pulled the literature into it and I got excited. I can’t really tell you how excited they got listening to me describe the length and width of an 1814 British man-of-war, but you know I feel like they learned some history and I got to have some resolution with kids that unfortunately in my job I don’t get as much as I should.”
In addition to discussing the books, many teachers also incorporated activities.
Students who read “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” were sorted into Hogwarts houses by teacher Tim Harbin. The Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs, Slytherins and Ravenclaws played trivia, discussed their favorite parts of the book and talked about how the book differed from the movie.
MCHS sophomore and “Slytherin” Lisa Reed said she enjoyed the hour-long group meeting.
“I thought MC Reads was by far a better choice than having a book chosen for us that we might or might not like,” she said.
Mill Creek Latin teacher Julee Hudson and her students read “The Fight for Rome” by James Duffy. Hudson brought in food, games and craft projects related to the book.
“It was very different,” Hudson said. “I felt like I focused more on the joy of reading than the literary analysis.”
Hudson feels the program is beneficial because it helps students see reading not as a chore, but as a source of pleasure.
Mill Creek High School freshman Christin Manus agreed.
“You’re not going to like reading unless it’s something you want to read, so picking my own book was pretty awesome,” Manus said.
Manus said she hopes the school continues with the program. Classmate Brad Clizbe would also like to see the program remain in place.
“I think it’s a pretty good idea just to talk about it in general,” he said. “An assignment wouldn’t have been that bad, but I like what they did with it.”
MC Reads was made possible through the efforts of school media specialists Julie Hatcher and Mary K. Donovan. Hatcher and Donovan implemented the program as a way to get students excited about summer reading assignments. By offering 198 different books and eliminating the worry of grades, the pair hoped more students would read over the summer.
Though the success of the program is still being evaluated, Hatcher and Donovan are pleased with the feedback they have received so far.
“I think it went really well,” Hatcher said. “I think our teachers did an awesome job. A lot of them came up with great ideas … They were very creative.”
Donovan also thought the program went very well.
“My group had a really good time, everybody participated,” she said. “The feedback was great.”
Donovan believes the success of the program lies not only in giving students more choices, but letting them see that teachers, coaches, administrators and other adults read for fun.
“The thing is, we all read over the summer but when we read, we read books that we want to,” she said. “We get to choose what we read. We read what we like and we figured the best way to create a lifelong love of reading for students is to let them have that same experience.”