Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers is just one of the books that the state is recommending that high school students read this summer, as part of the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge, a statewide program coordinated by the Connecticut State Department of Education (SDE) in conjunction with the Connecticut State Library.
The best-selling book by Mary Roach "explores how human cadavers have been used throughout history and discusses how the use of dead bodies has benefited every aspect of human existence." It has earned the distinction of being among the “Outstanding Books for the College Bound."
Connecticut schools compete based on student population and grade level, with the schools with the highest participation and highest books-per-student receiving recognition next fall. Schools are asked to tally the number of grades participating, the number of students who take part, total number of books read, and the average number of books read per student. The data must be submitted to the department by October 4, 2013.
Among the other recommended titles for students entering grades 9-12 are Corpses, Coffins and Crypts: A History of Burial, which documents the burial process throughout the centuries and in different cultures, and Salvage the Bones, a story of children struggling to prepare for Hurricane Katrina amidst teen pregnancy, alcoholic and absent parents and a dying litter of pups. Other titles include Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave, Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead, and Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone.
The department’s website provides suggested reading lists for Grades K-2, grades 3-4, grades 5-6, and grades 7-8, in addition to the high school age recommendations. The site also offers a Summer Reading Journal that students can use to keep track of their reading and a student certificate template. Information for principals, parents and students is also provided, along with a Summer Reading poster and a coloring poster for younger children.
Among the books recommended for students entering third and fourth grade are: Bones, Barnum’s Bones, Please Bury Me in the Library, Dying to Meet You and Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Dinosaur Bones.
In urging school principals to have their schools participate, the department emphasizes that the Summer Reading Challenge “will support and enhance efforts to help every student become a proficient and confident reader.” The program will recognize schools for participation and the number of books read, as well as outstanding public school-library partnerships. Certificates are to be awarded at a public ceremony to schools with 100 percent participation of their students.
Information offered to parents stresses that reading is a “gateway skill,” which builds language skills, improves the capacity for conceptual thinking, builds better thinking strategies, and teaches discipline in regards to the written word. Families are urged to have children use the library, ask about summer reading materials, read every day, talk about what they are reading, and make reading materials part of their home.