Catholic School Awaken Greatness

Summer Reading Helps to Awaken Greatness in High Schoolers

July 28, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 2.07.28 PM.png

School is out for the summer, but that doesn’t mean it is time to close the book on reading. In fact, summer offers students the perfect opportunity to sit back, sip lemonade and immerse themselves in a good book.

Even if your high schooler has not been assigned a specific summer reading book, it is always a good idea to encourage your child to read just for the fun of it. Studies show that students who read over the summer are better able to maintain and even improve their intellectual skills. Summer reading also makes for a smoother transition when it is time to go back to school in the fall.

In an effort to help students reap the benefits of reading, many high schools across the country have adopted summer reading programs in an effort ensure that students continue a pattern of learning throughout the summer. Several high schools in the Archdiocese of Omaha are doing the same.

Summer reading is an important weapon to defend against what is often referred to as “the summer slide,” or the loss of educational ground a student experiences during the summer months. While it is important that students enjoy some much-needed downtime during the summer, reading provides substantial benefits that extend beyond the classroom.

“The primary objective of a summer reading assignment is to encourage an enjoyable lifelong habit,” said Amanda Marcuccio, Chair of Mercy High School’s English department. “Second, reading exercises your mind, and it gives us something to discuss when we return to school in the fall. We will get to know one another as a community of readers by sharing what we read.”

Students in some English classes at Mercy are required to pick a book or books and write an essay explaining why the book was considered controversial or has been challenged in the past. They also must write a reading response journal in reaction to key scenes, quotations or themes in the work. The journals will be part of conversations in class next fall.

Nina Stickels, chair of the English department at Creighton Prep, believes having a summer reading assignment benefits every student.

“Our purpose is two-fold: to build a spirit of community and to foster reading for pleasure,” Stickels said. “Creighton Prep has had an all-school summer read for the past 15 years. Books are selected by the English Department. This year the entire student body is reading Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.”

Stickels said that when school begins in August all English classes spend the first week with discussions, projects and assignments that center on the summer novel.

“This year will be particularly interesting because the movie comes out in September,” Stickels said. “Several classes are also reading the other two books in the trilogy.”

“The English department at Roncalli Catholic High School chooses the content of the summer reading program to accelerate classroom discussion over major themes,” said Toni Hoffmeier Mangus, a member of the school’s language arts department.

Summer reading at Gross Catholic provides students with an opportunity to widen their world views by making a connection to literature and the arts.

“Providing a ‘quality, integral education’ is Central to the philosophy of the Gross Catholic Marianist education. Summer reading and activities support the grade-level curriculum, provide enrichment, and encourage life-long learning,” shared Christine Johanek Boro, a teacher in the English department.

“Teachers choose summer reading titles and activities that are directly related to course content for the coming year.  For example, sophomore honors students attended the Nebraska Shakespeare’s summer production of The Taming of the Shrew in anticipation of their study of the Renaissance in World History and the works of William Shakespeare in their English class,” shared Christine Johanek Boro.  “Junior students are currently considering How to Read Literature Like a Professor and then applying Thomas C. Foster’s observations literature or films with which they are familiar.  During the year students will return to Foster’s thesis and examples and apply his work to the American literature canon.  Prior to their study of British literature, seniors are reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and will discuss its themes and Bronte’s presentation of Victorian life and values in their class.”  

At Skutt Catholic summer reading is designed to enhance student learning in both the English and social studies programs.  

“Each English and a few social studies classes have different reading lists.  Depending on the course, our kids read either one or two books in the summer time,” shared Rob Meyers, Principal of Skutt Catholic.

Duchesne Academy uses its summer reading book to elevate learning, involve students and advance the goals of a Sacred Heart education.

“The English department selects the grade level reading, and it is chosen as an enhancement to the curriculum the student will be taking in the coming year,” shared Dr. Laura Hickman, principal of Duchesne Academy.

“The all school read is selected by any interested members of the faculty along with the student leadership team (student council and class leaders). The adults discuss possibilities and read them to ensure their appropriateness, but always with an eye for a non-fiction selection as well as a book that furthers the third Goal of Sacred Heart education: social awareness that impels to action,” said Dr. Hickman.

“This year’s selection, In Defense of Food, supports the school’s growing emphasis on stewardship, sustainability and wellness in our curriculum. This summer we are adding a school teaching garden and have embraced a number of initiatives that will expand recycling efforts and decrease waste,” shared Dr. Hickman.

While not all Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese have a formal summer reading program, all schools try to impress on students the importance of summer reading. Norfolk Catholic High School, for example, encourages its students to take advantage of the resources and activities promoted through the Norfolk Public Library.

Summer reading programs are just one of the many ways that Catholic school awakens greatness in its students all through the year.

Marian High School English department has developed a summer reading program and theme around reading with the #MarianReads. The program allows students to join in conversations via the # before entering the classroom this fall.  A website dedicated to the summer reading program provides downloadable instructions on how to annotate books.  When students return to school this fall each class will gather for a class breakfast, book talk, and conversation.  Two book authors, a Creighton University professor and a public official have been invited to lead book talks with each class. 

“Reading great literature is the cornerstone of a Marian education,” said Susie Sisson, Chair of Marian High School’s English Department. “It is the goal of the Marian English department to provide a plethora of opportunities for our students to engage actively with classical and contemporary works of literature, both during the school year and during summer break.

“In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald: ‘That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.’ Through the Summer Reading Program, Marian students will read popular and engaging works of literature. By participating in classroom discussions and other projects, they will develop the skills necessary for life-long learning, and they will become part of Marian’s community of readers.”

Whether required or not, reading is always in a student’s best interest. This is especially true today when high schoolers are spending more and more time on their electronic devices. Parents who put down their smartphones and shut their laptops can help encourage summer reading, as well. When children see their parents enjoying a good book, it sets a wonderful example and encourages a lifelong love of reading.

What follows is a list of books area Catholic high school students are reading this summer.

The Archdiocese of Omaha requests that each school be responsible for its summer reading book selections.

Creighton Prep

All School Read: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 

Duchesne Academy

All School Read: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

9th Grade: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

10th Grade: The Iliad translated by W.H.D. Rouse

11th Grade: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

11th Grade Honors: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

12th Grade: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

12th Grade Honors:  A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

12th AP English:  A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving


10th Grade: The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare + individually assigned Renaissance topics to research

11th Grade: How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster; The Crucible by Arthur Miller

12th Grade: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte


9th Grade: The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz

10th Grade: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

11th Grade: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

12th Grade: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger

9th Grade Honors Composition and Literature: Pears on a Willow Tree by Leslie Pietrzyk

10th Grade Honors American Literature: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

11th Grade H/AP English Literature: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by
Mark Haddon

12th Grade H/AP English Language: The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids by
Alexandra Robbins

12th Grade Honors World Literature: Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan
Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza

Access how to annotate a book here:


Freshman English: Ties that Bind, Ties that Break by Lensey Namioka (General, Regular); Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Honors)

Sophomore English: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Regular, Honors)

Junior English: Challenging Books List (see below; Regular, Honors)

Senior English: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Regular, Honors)

AP English Language and Composition (11): To Kill a Mockingbird Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields

AP English Literature and Composition (12): The Color Purple by Alice Walker; The Awakening by Kate Chopin ; How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

Challenging Book List:

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume


Honors English 10: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Honors English 11: 1984 by George Orwell

AP/DC World Literature 12: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley


College Prep English 9: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather

Honors English 9: O Pioneers! by Willa Cather; Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

World Literature: All But My Life by Gerda Weissman Klein 

Honors World Literature: All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein; Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

American Literature: Horsecatcher by Mari Sandoz

Honors American Literature: My Antonia by Willa Cather

Senior English: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

AP Lit and Comp: Silas Marner by George Eliot; Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck


Catholic School Awaken Greatness
Archdiocese FacebookArchdiocese TwitterArchdiocese YouTubeArchdiocese Instagram

The Archdiocese of Omaha Schools admit students of any race, color and national or ethnic origin.