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Summer Reading Essay Topics

 How are you going to grade students on their summer reading requirements?

The Summer Reading Challenge:

You can choose to issue a “Summer Reading" challenge, as described in the article “Choosing Books by Grade Level." A handout for how to implement this challenge is available for download here as well. This method does require the teacher to create several objective tests on the novels selected for each grade level, but the tests can be quick true or false or multiple choice assessments, as the point of the challenge is to earn points for a marking period grade.

Download a guide here: Summer Reading Challenge

Writing Assignments

Another approach is to keep it writing-based but generic, so that you can use it repeatedly, no matter what grade level or novel you may be assessing. This method of assessment uses two different checkpoints –one objective and one writing-based—and asks students to answer both short and extended constructed response questions based around the books they read.

Download an example: Generic Writing Assessment

The writing assessment provides students with three quotes and a prompt for each quote. Students are then asked to write a five-paragraph essay that connects their book with the prompt they selected.

Generic Assessments

The objective part of this type of assessment asks students to complete five sentence answers on the plot, theme and message of the book followed by information regarding whether the student enjoyed the book and why. This is also a great tool when teachers are seeking to change or swap out titles within summer reading. If few readers enjoyed a specific book, it might be time to shelve it for a new title, no pun intended.

Download an example assessment: Generic Objective Assessment

The sample prompts and objective tests are both easy to download and will save you a great deal of work when it comes to preparing your program.

Have you tried any of these ideas or have any of your own? Share in the comments!

We are pleased to announce the current and previous winners of the First-Year Summer Reading Essay Contest, open to all members of each year’s incoming class. The general topic of the essay is the Illinois Wesleyan University Summer Reading Program selection. Each year students have the opportunity to discuss the selection during New Student Orientation with the university community, take part in programming for the corresponding year’s intellectual theme, listen to the voices of our faculty and staff, and hear the voice of the selection’s author during the President’s Convocation. The discussion stands incomplete without the most important voices of all—our students' voices.


Award Winners from 2017


The Manufacturing of the MENA Race, Gabrielle Ghaderi '21


Sibling Worlds, David Nicolas Lopez Moncayo '21


The Manmade Construct of Race, Tatum Zsorey '21

Award Winners from 2016


Differences Between Afghan and American Gender Politics: Subtle Versus Blatant Sexism, and Both Their Dangers, Mary Amanda Breeden '20


Global Feminism: A Comparison of Gender Roles in Afghanistan and the United States, Alexa Letourneau '20


Endless Possibilities Await, Naing Lin Tun '20

Award Winners from 2015


Still a Jerk, Benjamin Alan Zentner '19


Between Two Worlds, Emma Marie Haan '19


The Complexity of Balance, Kathryn Halford '19


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