On Our Shelves: The Tradition of the All-School Read

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Looking for a new read this summer? The tradition of an all-school read is a unifying experience in which all students, faculty, and staff participate. Whether you prefer hardcovers, trade paperbacks, or audiobooks, reading is a valuable practice for all ages. To celebrate our continuing tradition of the all-school read, here is a look at our current selection as well as selections from the past decade.

Creating conversation space

Each year at New Hampton School, our new read is selected and announced in the spring. For our internal school community, we focus on individual exploration following by context, probing questions, and ample reflection time. With guidance provided by the school life team and administrators, a framework to consider themes and messages is established. By fall, the community explores the material through a variety of modalities including community meetings, topical speakers, classwork, and advisory discussions.

The importance of open conversations and exploring uncomfortable and challenging topics in a safe space is critical. Over the years, our all-school reads and conversations have focused on a range of topics including diversity, equity, prejudices, unhealthy and healthy relationships, the persistence of hope, and rising up, to name a few.

Stay tuned for more about our current read and explorations as the fall semester begins.

All-School Read Selections

*Note: The links provided are through Amazon for ease of reference; New Hampton School is not an Amazon affiliate or associate. 

2020-2021: One Goal by Amy Bass

When thousands of Somali refugees resettled in Lewiston, Maine, a struggling, overwhelmingly white town, longtime residents grew uneasy. Then the mayor wrote a letter asking Somalis to stop coming, which became a national story. While scandal threatened to subsume the town, its high school’s soccer coach integrated Somali kids onto his team, and their passion began to heal old wounds. Taking readers behind the tumult of this controversial team–and onto the pitch where the teammates vied to become state champions and achieved a vital sense of understanding–ONE GOAL is a timely story about overcoming the prejudices that divide us.

One Goal was selected in April 2020 as the new all-school read for New Hampton School.

2019-2020: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

2018-2019: Walking to Listen by Andrew Forsthoefel

At 23, Andrew Forsthoefel headed out the back door of his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, with a backpack, an audio recorder, his copies of Whitman and Rilke, and a sign that read “Walking to Listen.” He had just graduated from Middlebury College and was ready to begin his adult life, but he didn’t know how. So he decided to take a cross-country quest for guidance, one where everyone he met would be his guide.

In the year that followed, he faced an Appalachian winter and a Mojave summer. He met beasts inside: fear, loneliness, doubt. But he also encountered incredible kindness from strangers. Thousands shared their stories with him, sometimes confiding their prejudices, too. Often he didn’t know how to respond. How to find unity in diversity? How to stay connected, even as fear works to tear us apart? He listened for answers to these questions, and to the existential questions every human must face, and began to find that the answer might be in listening itself.

Ultimately, it’s the stories of others living all along the roads of America that carry this journey and sing out in a hopeful, heartfelt book about how a life is made, and how our nation defines itself on the most human level.

2017-2018: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.

Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

The stories collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.

A favorite all-school read from 2017, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah created deep conversation opportunities for our international and domestic student community.

2016-2017: The Fiddler in the Subway by Gene Weingarten

Millions of people know the title piece about violinist Joshua Bell, which originally began as a stunt: What would happen if you put a world-class musician outside a Washington, D.C., subway station to play for spare change? Would anyone even notice? The answer was no. Weingarten’s story went viral, becoming a widely referenced lesson about life lived too quickly. Other classic stories—the one about “The Great Zucchini,” a wildly popular but personally flawed children’s entertainer; the search for the official “Armpit of America”; a profile of the typical American nonvoter—all of them reveal as much about their readers as they do their subjects.

2016 All-School Read New Hampton School

2015-2016: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

This all-school read offered challenging themes and lessons for our school community.

2014-2015: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor, 15, is the new girl at school and bullied because she’s overweight and dresses in a flamboyant manner. Park is a half-Korean boy who has lived in Omaha, Nebraska, all his life but still feels like an outsider. This is a story of first love, which very slowly builds from the first day Eleanor sits next to Park on the school bus. First they ignore each other, and then they slowly become friends through their love of comic books and 1980s alternative music.

Park is the only good thing in Eleanor’s life. Her home life is a miserable exercise in trying to stay out of her abusive stepfather’s way, and finding new ways to wear the same clothes repeatedly since there is no money for anything extra. Park adores everything about Eleanor, and she finds refuge at his house after school with his understanding parents. Things finally explode at Eleanor’s house and Eleanor and Park’s relationship is truly tested. – School Library Journal

*Note: This was one of four books offered as a school read in 2014-2015 to our community; other selections included A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.

2013-2014: The Dressmaker of Kharir Kharna by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Former ABC journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon tells the riveting true story of Kamila Sidiqi and other women of Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s fearful rise to power. In what Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea, calls “one of the most inspiring books I have ever read,” Lemmon recounts with novelistic vividness the true story of a fearless young woman who not only reinvented herself as an entrepreneur to save her family but, in the face of ferocious opposition, brought hope to the lives of dozens of women in war-torn Kabul.

2012-2013: Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

North Korea’s political prison camps have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. No one born and raised in these camps is known to have escaped. No one, that is, except Shin Dong-hyuk.

In Escape From Camp 14, Blaine Harden unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state through the story of Shin’s shocking imprisonment and his astounding getaway. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence—he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his mother and brother.

The late “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Il was recognized throughout the world, but his country remains sealed as his third son and chosen heir, Kim Jong Eun, consolidates power. Few foreigners are allowed in, and few North Koreans are able to leave. North Korea is hungry, bankrupt, and armed with nuclear weapons. It is also a human rights catastrophe. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people work as slaves in its political prison camps. These camps are clearly visible in satellite photographs, yet North Korea’s government denies they exist.

Harden’s harrowing narrative exposes this hidden dystopia, focusing on an extraordinary young man who came of age inside the highest security prison in the highest security state. Escape from Camp 14 offers an unequaled inside account of one of the world’s darkest nations. It is a tale of endurance and courage, survival, and hope.

2012 All-School Read New Hampton School

2011-2012: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba

William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala—crazy—but William refused to let go of his dreams. With a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks; some scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves; and an armory of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to forge an unlikely contraption and small miracle that would change the lives around him.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a remarkable true story about human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity. It will inspire anyone who doubts the power of one individual’s ability to change his community and better the lives of those around him.

2011 All-School Read New Hampton School

Summer Program on Advanced Reading Skills

New Hampton School offers virtual summer learning opportunities this summer for students in grades 9-12. The first session of Advanced Reading Skills began this last week, with a second session beginning on July 20. Students will learn strategies that take them beyond initial understanding, and into analysis and interpretation of the text. The summer read will be used as a basis for this class. While the current offerings are closed to registrations, you may learn more about this offering and other sessions this summer on our Summer Programs page.

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