What do you require for summer reading for students taking AP English Language and Composition in the fall? I like to try new ideas with summer reading and wonder if there is an assignment that others have tried and found successful.
I like Orwell's essay, "To Shoot an Elephant". We also have a collection of Best American Essays, and I encourage my students to bring in pieces as well. You might introduce a theme and have them search for new stuff...you will be surprised what they will bring in and how much substance it has.
All of the previous posters have provided good ideas. I would add that the students should be given some means of interacting with the literature. Perhaps a double entry journal, vocabulary log, some sort of expected end result--anything to give their reading more purpose than simply finishing the reading. Or "novel" idea--provide the students with a long list of selected readings and let students choose works from that list.
Post #7: Thanks much--your suggestions are very helpful for AP Lang.'s nonfiction emphasis. We've used Savage Inequalities and Nickel and Dimed, and they work well, but I've been trying to add more of a variety. I hadn't thought about Stiff, but my students will love that, and I can pair it with Mitford's "Behind the Formaldehyde Curtain" essay.
For AP L and C, we used to assign a choice of a number of books, most of them non-fiction like Stiff or The Blind Side, or something along those lines where the author was making a sort of argument. We also had Nickel and Dimed on the list as well as a couple others that I just can't think of right now. The one book we assigned to everyone was Kozol's Savage Inequalities. We then used this to get into the start of the year and talk about the forms his arguments take, etc.
Our AP English course assigns two books for summer reading, The Scarlet Letter, and The Great Gatsby. Both books are, of course, traditional and have been bouncing around classrooms for decades now, but there is a good basis for conversation and essays about society and social change in each book, and I have found that is a good place to start with these students when the school year begins.
Our High School stresses multicultural literature, and requires the following: Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith (Nahai), The Kite Runner (Hosseini), Bel Canto (Patchett), and Nectar in a Sieve (Markandaya).
This is a relatively new development, I can't remember all the titles, but I do remember that a few years back one of the required readings was "Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit" by Winterson, and "Cat's Eye" by Atwood (leaning towards feminist literature then).
Our high school mixes a contemporary writer in with the assigned classics. For instance, Annie Proulx's The Shipping News which is included on the AP reading list and a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, provides a rather unusual narrative filled with the dialect of Nova Scotia, and sketches of a myriad nautical knots. A quirky and unlikely anti-hero, described as a "loaf" of a human being, demeaned and belittle, achieves true manhood. [It is a good read for those who are unpopular, bullied, etc.]
Many of the students read the modern novel first; then, having enjoyed it, they approach the classics with a more positive attitude, having acquired more faith in their teacher.
I have experimented with different ways of preparing students for this course, but one of the most effective ways is getting them to read and follow a particular editor in a newspaper. Doing so allows them to build up a collection of (hopefully) good non-fiction which employs a variety of rhetorical strategies which they can then go on to identify and work with. Giving them a list of strategies and having them try to identify them can likewise help.
We have meetings with our faculty to see if everyone wants to or doesn't want to assign reading. We limit the number of books to 5. Everyone once in a while a history teacher will require a 1500 page book or an English teacher will have a 900 page classic to read. We no longer give it as busy work, we work together to have them read integrated books.