When media specialists Julie Hatcher and Mary K. Donovan launched “” last year, they hoped the program would be well received. The .
“We gave [teachers and students] a survey and 98 percent of them wanted to do it again,” Hatcher said.
The “MC Reads” program 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 summer reading program involves every teacher, counselor and administrator in the school, including . Each staff member selects a book to read. At the beginning of the school year, staff members meet with students who chose to read the same book for a group discussion and, in some cases, group activities related to the book.
“The kids get more out of choice reading and pleasure reading,” Hatcher explained.
Donovan said the program was created after feedback from staff, parents and students indicated the traditional summer reading assignments were not generating the desired results.
“The summer reading program was just stalling,” Donovan recalled. “We had some parents that were not happy and students that were not happy, teachers that were not happy.”
Donovan, Hatcher and other staff members decided to change the summer reading program to better reflect the program’s true goal -- to encourage lifelong reading.
“We took a look at what we as adult readers do and one of the main things is we read the books that we want to read,” Donovan said. “Nobody tells us what we have to read, nobody gives us a test after we read as adults. So we thought the best thing to do was to model for students how we read as adults.”
The students are allowed to choose from approximately 200 different titles. According to Donovan, some students make their selections based on the book, others decide based on the teacher leading the discussion.
“A lot of students go looking for their favorite teacher or coach and will read a book that they may not have ever wanted to read before but they choose to read with that teacher,” she said. “So, it not only encourages a different type of reading but also gives teachers and students a … chance to develop a different type of connection.”
Mill Creek High School junior Marissa Blackwell said the program is much better than the one at her previous school.
“My old high school -- we didn’t have anything like [MC Reads],” she said.
Blackwell enjoyed being able to pick a book she liked and having the opportunity to discuss the book with other readers.
“It was interesting to hear what other people liked about it,” she explained.
Sophomore Sydnee Shaw also enjoyed discussing the book with others.
“When you read a book, you really want to talk to someone about it and if you don’t have anyone to talk to, you just have all this energy inside like ‘I really want to talk about it, but I don’t know who read it’ so that’s good,” she said.
Students will have an extra incentive to participate in this year’s MC Reads. Students who actively participate in the book discussions may be nominated for a chance to win prizes such as an Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble gift cards and other restaurant and retail gift cards.
Though the prizes will no doubt increase student interest in participating, last year’s experience was enough to convince most students of the program’s advantages over the previous summer reading program.
Mill Creek High School senior Will Estep said “MC Reads” has several benefits.
“I do believe more people actually read [the book],” he said.
The lack of written assignment, Estep explained, may actually lead more students to participate because they are not being forced to read a specified book and can choose material they may actually enjoy.
“It’s an improvement and I do like it,” he added.
To learn more about “MC Reads” and to see a list of available book choices, visit the “MC Reads” page on the Mill Creek High School website.