Our Strategic Vision

What to Know about Summer Reading

Books for Required Summer Reading from the English Department were given to rising 5th-12th graders by their teachers the last week of school. [Students new to BFS received the books and assignment from the Enrollment Office.] In addition, the BFS Librarians prepare Recommended Reading Lists. All of these resources are on the SUMMER READING website.

Guiding Questions for Middle School Summer Reading
Rising 5th Grade Students and Parents
You will read R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, a novel that explores kindness and friendship from multiple points of view. August Pullman was born with Treacher-Collins Syndrome, which has resulted in a facial deformity he has experienced all his life. Entering middle school for the first time, he learns about accepting himself and teaches others what it means to be a true friend.  Friendship and community are major themes throughout the book.
We encourage you to read this book with your parents and discuss: How do the characters in the book learn about equality? What does this book have to say about friendship, kindness, and courage? How does the story of Augie and his friends reflect the Quaker concept of seeing the Light in everyone?


Rising 6th Grade Students and Parents
You will read Brian Selznick’s New York Times Notable Children’s Book Wonderstruck. An enticing novel following two different characters on their quests to discover their identities and family history, Selznick’s work is recognized by its format of combining traditional narrative and illustration. 
As you read Wonderstruck, ask yourself: How do people’s histories, identities, and personalities affect the way they see themselves and their environment and relationships? How does this story relate to the Quaker testimony of community?


Rising 7th Grade Students and Parents
You will read S. E. Hinton’s classic coming-of-age novel, The Outsiders.  Ponyboy and Johnny are two “greasers” who never seem to get a break.  When they get caught up in a gang-related killing they didn’t see coming, they run away and learn that their lives will never be the same again… 
As you read The Outsiders, ask yourself: Who are the outsiders in this story and who are the insiders?  Who determines what “in” or “out” even means? How does this story connect to Quaker testimonies of peace and equality?


Rising 8th Grade Students and Parents
You will read All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. This novel follows the narrative of two teens – one black, one white – and a single violent act that creates extreme racial tensions in their community. Rashad, who visits a corner bodega for a simple bag of chips faces an aggressive police officer who mistakes him for a shoplifter. The consequences that follow signal to larger themes about the justice system and the impact of racial prejudice.
As you read All American Boys, ask yourself: How does the dual first-person narrative of Rashad and Quinn offer perspective, and what do they teach us about courage? How does this novel connect to the Quaker testimonies of peace and equity?


Required Upper School Summer Reading & Guided Questions 

9th Grade: You will read Colson Whitehead’s collection of essays The Colossus of New York, a series of vignettes, essays, and memories about life in New York City.

As you read The Colossus of New York, ask yourself:  How does Whitehead convey the thoughts and feelings of so many different kinds of New Yorkers?  How does the use of narrative perspective (first-, second-, and third-person) affect a reader’s experience of a text?  How does setting become a character? One of the important testimonies of Quakerism is community; what do these essays say about the communities that exist within this city we call home?

10th Grade: You will read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age novel, The Great Gatsby, which describes the young and mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, whose obsessive love leads to ruin.   

As you read, ask yourself: What is involved in the process of determining one’s own identity?  What sacrifices do people make in creating new identities? What relationships do we have with our past?  How does the story of Jay Gatsby relate to Quaker testimonies of simplicity and truth?

11th Grade: You have been assigned a summer reading book based on your chosen elective for this coming year. As you begin to immerse yourself in this first work from the orientation of your chosen elective, ask yourself: How does narrative structure inform content, both subtly and explicitly? What techniques does the author use to create character and conflict? How does the author pose thematic questions through plot and setting?  How does the author use both text and subtext to meditate on the ways characters communicate, and how do these ideas connect to the Quaker practice of silent reflection?

11th grade elective class summer reading:

Crisis and Catharsis: Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

Authorship and Empathy: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

Literary Outsiders: The Sons, Franz Kafka

Madness and Civilization: Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

12th Grade: You will read George Orwell’s genre-defining dystopian vision of “the future,” 1984.  (Please note: you must also read the so-called “Appendix” for 1984–it is actually part of the novel!)   

As you read 1984, ask yourself:  How does Orwell’s vision of the future compare to our present?  How does Big Brother redefine language to control the population? What is Orwell exploring about the use of language to define ourselves as individuals, as well as members of a society? How is language connected to collective memory and political history?  How do Orwell’s ideas relate to the Quaker search for integrity?