Rita Howell’s column

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 8, 2007

List offers students 100 ways to grow richer

By Rita Howell

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Perhaps you read Billy Davis’ story in Tuesday’s Panolian about the summer reading list for South Panola High School students.

At SPHS principal Dr. Gearl Loden is determined to raise academic levels and has implemented the summer reading list as one way to encourage intellectual development.

It’s been proven that the more well-read the student, the higher the score on the college entrance exam.

There are more than 100 titles on Loden’s lists, from Homer to Faulkner to Stephen King. Each student in grades nine-12 is required to select and read three books from his grade’s reading list. There will be a test when school starts in August.

Essentially the kids have two months to read three books of their own choosing.

I looked at the lists and found some I’d already read: “Jane Eyre,” a favorite from my teenage days; “Heart of Darkness,” which I’d read in college and hated; “A Tale of Two Cities,” whose characters were so memorable that they’re easily recalled today.

I found a number of books I’d like to read. Then some titles didn’t interest me at all, but that’s the beauty of the list – you pick ‘em.

I’m imagining the influence on this community if all 1,350 South Panola High School students take this seriously and complete this reading assignment over the next two months.

Perhaps we will see teens sitting on a park bench reading “Pride and Prejudice,” or lying on the beach at Sardis Lake soaking in “The Old Man and the Sea.”

Hours spent completing the reading assignment will be hours not spent riding around burning expensive gasoline this summer.

I wonder if conversations around the fast food joints might center around the characters in “The Color Purple” instead of the ones on “American Idol.”

The murder and intrigue of “Othello” could rival the latest episode of “CSI.” There’s even a CSI-type novel (“The Farming of Bones”) on the list, Loden said.

All of a sudden, I want to participate. I want to read a book from “the list.”  I want to spend a lazy summer afternoon absorbed in a good book.

Any other adults out there care to join me?

You can find the reading lists posted on our Web site, or if you come by the office, I’ll give you a copy.

Pick a book, sign up (either at our office or online under the “Summer Read-Along” heading). Then after you’ve read it, comment on it, either online or on paper.

Dr. Loden, you might have started something here.