Summer Reading

Summer Reading

Our School’s Mission and Yearly Guiding Principles

The mission of Bishop O’Connell High School is to provide students an education rooted in the life of Christ and to foster the pursuit of excellence in the whole person. To serve that end, each year of our curriculum has been devoted to the study of one of four guiding themes, and texts are selected across the curriculum to serve each of these guiding principles by grade level:

    • Grade 9 - Dignity of the Human Person
    • Grade 10 - Spirituality of Community
    • Grade 11 - Using Faith as a Guide
    • Grade 12 - Living Your Faith in the World Today
Bishop O'Connell English Department

The mission of the English department is to foster excellence in critical thinking, analytical writing, public speaking, and engaged reading. The department strongly believes that reading is a habit to be cultivated and nurtured throughout one’s life and is a habit that does not take a hiatus during the summer months. In the words of American author Ursula K. LeGuin, “We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel . . . is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”

Purpose of Summer Assignments

The purpose of summer reading is to help establish a common literary experience for discussion to set the stage for the year’s guiding principle. To that end, students are asked to read and annotate a series of texts throughout their time away from school, and they should be prepared to return to school and use these annotated texts for in-class discussions and written assessments. To aid in your studying, each text is accompanied with an overarching “essential question” -- by keeping this question in mind as you read and annotate, students will be able to develop a clearer understanding of the broader message of the assigned work and how it relates to the guiding principle for your course and grade level.

How to Annotate Summer Reading

Before embarking on the works assigned for summer reading, please check out Mortimer Adler’s short essay entitled How to Mark a Book.” This will offer you some insights and helpful tips on annotation, which is a skill you should employ with your reading this summer, as well as carry into our class when we meet this August.

Summer Assignments by Courses

English 1 (College Prep and Honors)

All incoming freshmen complete their summer reading assignment as part of the Freshman Launch Program.

VISIT THE FRESHMAN LAUNCH PROGRAM PAGE for complete details.

English 2 College Prep

English 2 College Prep

The sophomore theme at Bishop O'Connell High School is spirituality through community. The 10th grade world literature course serves as an exploration of translated literature from antiquity to contemporary times. The texts we will read throughout the year will present different definitions and examples of community. Our summer reading selection, A Song for Nagasaki, presents a a character reacting to and participating in his community. Keep these ideas, along with the guiding questions below, in mind as you begin your summer reading. You should annotate as you read by underlining key passages and writing comments or questions in the margins.

1. How does community impact Takashi Nagai?
2. As you read through the book, annotate and identify any examples of community you find.
3. What community values are present throughout the book? How does Takashi accept or push back against these values?

Assessment expectations:
The first week of school, students will be asked to complete various tasks displaying their understanding and interaction with the text at their own pace within a timed environment. Students will also be expected to participate in classroom dialogues about the details of the texts and their relation with each other. The results of these assessments will help guide our instruction for the remainder of the year.

English 2 Honors

English 2 Honors Summer Assignment

The theme of the sophomore year at Bishop O’Connell High School is the spirituality of community, with the English department’s focus on a diverse selection of translated world literature from antiquity to contemporary times. The characters in our two summer reading selections, the Fawcett abridged Les Miserables and A Song for Nagasaki, present different definitions of community and explore the joys and challenges of living as a united body. The way in which these united bodies form also affect the identity and interaction of their members. Each community is based upon different concepts, which in turn, affect how different characters participate in and react to the community and its values. These will all be considerations to keep in mind as you begin your summer reading.

  1. In what ways, does community manifest itself in each of these works? How does it challenge the major characters? How does it sustain them?
  2. What notable spiritual elements are represented in the communities found in the summer reading?
  3. How does the presentation of material within our fictional piece, Les Miserables, compare to the way material is presented in our nonfiction piece, A Song for Nagasaki? How does this impact your understanding of and connection with the material?

Assessment expectations:

The first week of school, students will be asked to complete various tasks displaying their understanding and interaction with the text at their own pace within a timed environment. Students will also be expected to participate in classroom dialogues about the details of the texts and their relation with each other. The results of these assessments will help guide our instruction for the remainder of the year.

English 3 College Prep

English 3 College Prep Summer Assignment

The theme of the junior year is maintaining your faith and using your faith as a guide throughout times of difficulty. Both of the summer reading selections for the Junior College Prep English classes deal with 20th century struggles where characters find their faith in crisis and must re-evaluate what they hold dear in order to survive and discover deeper meaning in their lives.

A Raisin in the Sun - Lorraine Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun draws its title from a Langston Hughes poem which asks “What happens to a dream deferred?” The concept of the American Dream (and its deferment) plays a critical role in many works of American Literature, and this play grapples directly with the question of whether or not “The Dream” is denied to people based on their race or social class.

When reading this work, keep the following essential questions in mind: This play deals from the perspective of an urban working class African American family in an era of segregation and racial tension. During the escalating tension of this drama, how do the family members connect with one another? How do they reconcile the pressures from their family, the influences of their environment, and their innermost desires to achieve their dreams?

As you read, make note of how the family members deal with their dreams being deferred and the ways in which they express or demonstrate the frustrations that come from being the victims of a segregated society that systematically denies them opportunities.

Upon returning from the summer break, students will complete a short answer test consisting of 8 prompt items. Students will select any 5 of these items and write answers of three or more sentences in which they demonstrate an understanding of individual characters’ dreams, attitudes, morals, and behaviors.

The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories - Ernest Hemingway

The title of the “Lost Generation” was given to Americans who served in World War I or were affected by family members serving in the War. After experiencing trauma and loss of life in this military engagement, an entire generation of Americans returned home feeling directionless and detached from the lives they once knew. Their inability to find meaningful connections to the world and people around them is a major influence on the style and thematic content of 20th Century American literature.

Read the following short stories:

“The Snows of Kilimanjaro”
“In Another Country”
“A Way You’ll Never Be”
“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”

When reading these stories, keep the following essential questions in mind:

  1. Are the characters able to form meaningful relationships with each other?
  2. How do the characters’ actions depict the theme of isolation and loneliness?
  3. What role does faith play for these characters?
  4. Are these characters able to find meaning in their lives?

Upon returning from summer break, students will complete an essay test on the themes listed above.

English 3 Honors

English 3 Honors Summer Assignment

The guiding theme of the eleventh grade course of studies at Bishop O'Connell High School is the concept of using one's faith as a guide. As we prepare for our yearlong study of American literature through this lens, we have selected two full-length works of fiction that explore the notion of identity, salvation, and loss. To that end, all incoming Honors American Literature students will be expected to have read the following works over the summer recess:

Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man
Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms

While reading these novels, students should annotate and be prepared to discuss major themes of significance. As you read, keep the following questions in mind:

  • How does one’s mindset affect the way that they live their lives? And how does shifting from a “fixed” to a “growth” mindset cause an individual to reevaluate the way (s)he lives?
  • What does it mean to be a hero? And how does an individual’s adherence to or rejection of social codes reflect the culture and values of his or her time?
  • What is "double consciousness?" And in what ways does a person's identity -- or lack of identity -- affect they manner in which they understand the broader world around them?

AP English Language & Composition (Grade 11)

AP English Language & Composition

Summer Reading Texts:

  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

AND (Choose one):

  • 102 Minutes: The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn
  • Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: A Memoir Based on a True Story by Dave Eggers

All of the books on your list are different in style and substance, but what I want you to do for the writing portion of your summer reading assignment is to find (and subsequently make) the connections among these works.

Assignment:

Write a 3-ish page (please stick to this page length; this assignment need not be 5+ pages!), MLA-formatted essay in which you explore some common theme or thread that you find in your four works. Then, analyze how each author’s unique style or written expression help to convey that purpose/theme/thread. Here are some questions to think about (but don’t feel like you need to explicitly answer all of them):

  • What do the authors do with language that is intriguing?
  • What effect do the authors’ choices make concerning their use of language?
  • All of these authors fall under the category of non-fiction, but beyond that, their subcategories are very different. What are those categories, or genres? What effect does using those genres have on the ideas they are trying to convey?
  • What trends do you notice across the author’s work and across all four of the books?

This assignment should give evidence of your having read the material. You should include quoted text evidence following proper MLA citation and work cited rules. More importantly, you should show that you have synthesized the information and have begun to look at authors’ choices more analytically. This assignment is, in a nutshell, what you will be doing all year in AP English Language & Composition: reading, analyzing, synthesizing, and producing. Good luck!

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me via email over the summer with any questions you might have: coreilly@bishopoconnell.org. See you in August!

This assignment will be due shortly after returning to school in August/September and summer reading assessments will be held during the second week of school.

“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” —Joseph Brodsky

AP English Language & Composition: Required Texts 2019-2020

Please note that all students must have the same edition of each text, which is noted here by publisher and ISBN. These editions are also listed on the MBS website and will be available for purchase at the used book sale. All texts must be print editions. E-books or PDFs are not acceptable.

Conversations in American Literature, edited by Aufses, Shea, Scanlon, and Aufses
Bedford St. Martin’s, ISBN: 978-1-4576-4676-8

MLA Handbook, 8th Edition
ISBN: 978-1-60329-262-7

The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Dover Thrift Edition, ISBN: 978-0-486-28048-6

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass
Dover Thrift Edition, ISBN: 978-0-486-28499-6

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
Norton Critical Edition, ISBN: 978-0-393-96640-4

Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
Dover Thrift Edition, ISBN: 0-486-26690-7

The Awakening, Kate Chopin
Dover Thrift Edition, ISBN: 978-0-486-27786-8

The Other Wes Moore, Wes Moore
Spiegel & Grau, ISBN: 978-0-385-52820-7

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Scribner, ISBN: 978-0-7432-7356-5

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
Little, Brown and Company, ISBN: 978-0-316-76948-8

English 4 College Prep

English 4 College Prep

The guiding principle underlying senior year is "living your faith in the world today." The selections for summer reading for seniors provide opportunities to reflect on good and evil, on the effects of choices beyond their original intent, and on the power of relationships.

1) Required : "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell

2) Choice of one:

  1. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  2. Frankenstein- Mary Shelley
  3. White Teeth- Zadie Smith
  4. Atonement - Ian McEwan
  5. Out of the Silent Planet- C.S. Lewis

Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell. This essay is about Orwell's experience as a police officer in Burma. Inevitably, he faces many challenges, one in which involves an elephant and the subconscious decision between determining what is right, and what is wrong.

When reading Shooting an Elephant, keep in mind the following essential questions:

1. When is it necessary to kill an animal?

2. The author's use of descriptive language is portrayed throughout the essay. How does the setting affect the story, and how might the outcome differ in today's society? Are there contemporary instances where individuals face difficult moral choices resulting in a conflict between their surroundings and their broader awareness of self?

Upon returning from the summer break, student will write an in-class essay in which they will use specific textual evidence to respond to the claim of the moral issue that the character faces.

English 4 Honors

English 4 Honors

The guiding principle underlying senior year is "living your faith in the world today." The selections for summer reading for seniors provide opportunities to reflect on good and evil, on the effects of choices beyond their original intent, and on the power of relationships.

Summer Reading Required:

"Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell , not the entire collection of essays from this book

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson

Shooting an Elephant by George Orwell. This essay is about Orwell's experience as a police officer in Burma. Inevitably, he faces many challenges, one in which involves an elephant and the subconscious decision between determining what is right, and what is wrong.

When reading Shooting an Elephant keep in mind the following essential questions:

1. When is it necessary to kill an animal?

2. The author's use of descriptive language is portrayed throughput the essay. How does the setting affect the story, and how might the outcome differ in today's society? Are there contemporary instances where individuals face difficult moral choices resulting in a conflict between their surroundings and broader awareness of self .

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson includes the statement: " With every day, and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to the truth, by whose discovery I have been doomed to such a dreadful shipwreck: that man is not truly one, but truly two."

When reading Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, keep in mind the following essential questions:

1. How does Dr. Jekyll's character reconcile the duality of human nature?

2. Is the war between good an evil, in one’s soul, a necessary part of existence?

Upon returning from summer break, students will write an essay responding to the question of the duality of human nature.

AP English Literature (Grade 12)