By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
What the recent Duke student protest over Fun Home can teach us about summer reading
No Caption - photo by Herb Scribner
Its back-to-school week for many students across the United States. Whether it's college, high school or younger grades, back-to-school lessons probably include a review of the benefits of summer reading.

But that isnt entirely the case at Duke University, where several students have refused to read the award-winning novel Fun Home, an LGBT-centric graphic-novel memoir from Alison Bechdel, that, according to some, violates Christian beliefs, according to Inquisitr.

Students told The Duke Chronicle that the books sexual depictions violate Christian moral beliefs.

I feel as if I would have to compromise my personal Christian moral beliefs to read it, freshman Brian Grasso wrote on Dukes class of 2019 Facebook page in July. Duke did not seem to have people like me in mind. It was like Duke didnt know we existed, which surprises me.

Fellow freshman Jeffrey Wubbenhorst said he felt uncomfortable reading the graphic novel because of its borderline pornographic content, The Chronicle reported.

The nature of Fun Home means that content that I might have consented to read in print now violates my conscience due to its pornographic nature, Wubbenhorst told The Chronicle in an email.

Students have continued to debate about whether the book is beneficial for a students learning or not, according to The Chronicle.

Though the answer to this particular debate may be up to the students, summer reading has long been known to benefit students, no matter the books topic.

In 2010, a study from researchers at the University of Tennessee found that students who read books over the summer had a significantly higher level of achievements upon their return to school, according to Science Daily.

In fact, the researchers said students who dont do their summer reading may lose two to three months of reading development, whereas students who do their summer reading will gain a month of reading proficiency.

"This creates a three- to four-month gap every year, University of Tennessee researcher Richard Allington said, according to Science Daily. Every two or three years the kids who don't read in the summer fall a year behind the kids who do."

But in many cases, students have higher academic achievement when they choose their own summer reading books, rather than ones assigned by schools.

For example, a 2013 study from researchers at the University of Rochester found that students who chose their own books for summer reading were more likely to read them and achieved better reading results when they returned to school, which I wrote about earlier this year.

The most popular book was an adaptation of Disneys 'Frozen,' said Dr. Erin Kelly, the studys lead author. Is that going to be the best literature in the world? No. But if its something that the children will actually read, then its going to lead to positive outcomes.

To find this, researchers observed the test scores of students in two groups: one in which students were able to choose their own summer reading and one in which students were given specific reading assignments. The group of students who got to pick their own books saw higher reading scores, while the latter group's scores showed no change, according to The New York Times report.

Similarly, an ongoing study in the United Kingdom found that children who read for fun or leisure tend to have higher intelligence levels. In fact, those students will do better in vocabulary, spelling and mathematics, according to The Guardian. The study said thats why it may be more important for children to read the books they want, rather than ones that are assigned to them.

As best-selling author James Patterson suggested in a piece for CNN in 2011, its more important for students to read any book, as long as it helps them grow. Thats something the Duke students who are protesting Fun Home may agree with.

The best way to get kids reading more is to give them books that they'll gobble up and that will make them ask for another, Patterson wrote. Kids say the No. 1 reason they don't read more is that they can't find books they like. Freedom of choice is a key to getting them motivated and excited. Vampire sagas, comics, manga, books of sports statistics terrific! as long as kids are reading.

Our latest education stories:

Why reading to young children matters

GOP candidates scramble to distinctions and base appeal at education summit

Meet the retirees and preschool children who live together
Sign up for our e-newsletters