Article by Angela Mollise, ASMS Librarian and English Instructor
Over the course of the last 16 years, having a summer reading list for our students came up in conversation with various faculty members many times. Requiring students to have summer reading was more about there being so many great books – fiction and nonfiction – that our students should be exposed to before they go off to college. It would give them more exposure and help them become more grounded in not only what we view as “classics,” but in modern thought, exploration in the sciences and math, and in humanities.
Many felt the need to re-spark the ASMS community with new energy this past year and that seemed to signal a group project that could last over the space of this upcoming school year, not simply reading a book over the summer and completing a report. ASMS has a strong community of readers – both faculty/staff and students. It seemed like a no-brainer that having a book that we, board members, students, faculty, and staff, all read could bring us together. It would give the entire community something common to talk about.
“The Runaway Species” was chosen after having an open call for suggestions from faculty and staff. It truly is an uplifting book that celebrates our unique abilities to create. The authors send a positive message to all – that we are constantly remaking our world. We each play a part and there is no such thing as failure in this process. Essentially, the book is about us. Us as humans, us as innovators in the classroom, us as life-long learners, and us as students who are seeking our individual talents and place in the world no matter our age.
“Human creativity does not emerge from a vacuum. We draw on our experience and the raw materials around us to refashion the world,” (p. 38, “The Runaway Species”).
For the first ASMS Reads selection the book can be used within the classroom, but also has value in the board room and campus life. Our challenge is to find ways to incorporate the tenets of the book into our ASMS lives and our lives outside of ASMS. We do so by thinking outside of the box, and that’s where we want to be as a community, educating the next leaders of our state and growing by taking on new challenges.
Once we decided on “The Runaway Species” as our book – the decision was made to get a copy of this inaugural selection into the hands of each returning student, incoming student, faculty, staff, and board member. That was over 400 books! The process of working with the publisher was a dream experience making it possible to be able to afford such a feat.
One thing led to another and after a few chats with the publisher, we not only had both authors committed to speaking to our community about fostering a creative spirit, but I was also asked if we would like to be a focus group to review the book’s film, “Creative”. Since we are the first high school to select this book as a summer reading book, and they understood that we have highly motivated students, they wanted insight from not only the adults, but also the students.
As a school we are driven to give our students as many experiences and raw materials to help them be leaders of innovation in whatever field they choose. It is an awesome task! With its positive outlook, “The Runaway Species” is both energizing and joyous and sets us on a course of creating our ASMS world collaboratively.