‘We are a community of readers’: Upper school continues annual Recreate Reading event


Tiffany Chang

William Chien (12) shares his thoughts on “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now” by Jaron Lanier as the rest of his book group listens. English teacher Nikolai Slivka sponsored this book.

by Tiffany Chang, TALON Academics Editor

Recreate Reading brought together faculty and students in grades 10-12 on Thursday to discuss literature they had read over the summer. Students met briefly in advisories for attendance before convening in their book groups. Registration for the event opened on March 8 last spring semester, and spots were filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Harker Upper School Book Blog worked with leadership team advisor and upper school librarian Amy Pelman to help students narrow their selection through a blog post.

This year, the librarians implemented a notable change to the Recreate Reading program: student sponsors. Upper school librarian Meredith Cranston and Pelman proposed this structural change in hopes of increasing student engagement. 

“After Recreate Reading last year, Ms. Pelman and I met to discuss how we wanted to change the program, and one of the ways we thought of to up our participation was to have students sponsor books,” Cranston said. “We wanted to open it up for students to take more ownership of the books they read over the summer and have more of a voice in the program. I hope we have more students wanting to sponsor books in the future.”

With approval from the administration, Cranston sent out a Schoology update in late January inviting students to co-sponsor a book with a member of the faculty. Five students took the librarians up on their offer: Joanna Bejar (11) sponsored “The Shining” with upper school mathematics teacher Dr. Victor Adler, Laurie Jin (11) and Ada Praun Petrovic (11) sponsored “Quantum Mechanics – The Theoretical Minimum” with upper school physics teacher Dr. Eric Nelson, Sawyer Lai (11) sponsored “Light in August” with upper school English teacher Dr. Beth Wahl and Rahul Mulpuri (23) sponsored “Sapiens” with upper school mathematics teacher Michael Wilt and upper school history department chair Mark Janda.

“I had been wanting to read Faulkner for a while since I heard that he was a good writer. I didn’t know too much about him so I asked Dr. Wahl because she’d expressed interest in Faulkner before, and she was the one who suggested ‘Light in August,’” Sawyer said. “It was a good read and the writing style was nice for the most part, and we had a good discussion about the book’s take on racial segregation.”

Aside from students, sophomore, junior and senior advisors and a few additional members of the faculty served as sponsors. Though most opted to discuss a specific book, some chose to explore a broader literary genre or works of a certain author.

Having enjoyed the movie “Ready Player One,” senior Aidan Lincke chose to read “Ready Player Two,” which was sponsored by Speech and Debate Greg Achten.

“Our discussion about ‘Ready Player Two’ was really interesting mostly because we all discovered that we didn’t particularly enjoy the book and saw it as a let down compared to ‘Ready Player One,’” Aidan said. “We spent most of our time talking about what might’ve improved it.”

Cranston hopes that the event draws more attention to reading for pleasure.

“I hope that students will take away that we are a community of readers,” Cranston said. “We don’t tend to talk about leisure reading very often, but having a day focusing on it shows that we do have a culture of pleasure reading and that really benefits the students and the faculty at Harker.”

While sophomores, juniors and seniors participated in Recreate Reading, freshmen advisories held discussions of their own. The librarians provided freshman advisors with discussion questions on books from the Tournament of Books, but advisors had the final say in deciding how they wanted to utilize that time.