LIVINGSTON, NJ — In between summer activities, Livingston students kept their minds sharp by reading a couple of books from a selection of titles recommended by their teachers.

Due to their required summer reading assignments, children of all ages in Livingston read a variety of genres in July and August.

According to Epic (free digital books), one of the companies that Livingston schools partnered with for summer reading books, “children who are given access to books over the summer perform 35-to-40 percent better on reading achievement tests."

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According to inquiries made via TAPinto Livingston, the general opinion among parents varied between those who felt students should be given a break from schoolwork during the summer months versus those who were glad for the mandatory reading.

"Why do they have to read anything at all?" Judith Kohn Raiss asked. "What’s wrong with a break?”

Jennifer Ziscan Kessler, an avid reader, responded that reading makes the students' "conversation and vocabulary far more vibrant" and that if reading "feels like a chore," then the student is "reading the wrong things." ‪

“I think in an age where so many children (again, mine included) are dominated by an assault of electronic devices and screens and games and apps and YouTube videos watching adults play with toys and unboxing LOL dolls, reading provides calm, quiet introspection and imagination and trying to picture what is happening rather than having it shown to you," she said. "Reading fosters the tangential leaps from a story about the Worlds Fair to learning about how George Ferris debuted a revolutionary (no pun intended) ride to maybe wanting to become a ride designer yourself to applying to aeronautics programs to a career with Disney. But, I could be wrong.”

Rebecca Kara agreed that summer reading is beneficial for children and teens.

"The fact that Livingston allows them to choose a book for summer reading is amazing," she said. "Many districts still require students to read a specific book. Reading is one of the most important skills that you will need as an adult.

"If we can instill a love of reading, or just a reading fluency, then we are on our way to developing well-rounded, informed citizens of the world. Asking them to read one book and disconnect from their phone for a while seems like a wonderful requirement to me.”

Parents of children with reading challenges, however, were among those who felt differently, stating that kids can become anxious from the summer reading assignment. 

"My son has learned to hate reading," said Dee Dee Pulver. "He does not like the reading lists, required reading and discussions the schools ask of the kids. In the summer, he wants to read a book of his choice. Reading is difficult for him. Having required reading, for him, tells him he never has a break from school. Good for some and not for others.”  

Stating that her son would not read during summer break at all if not for the requirement, Cindy Moskowitz Goldstein said she was glad to see that the list of recommended books was varied.

"I think the schools do a really good job providing a very robust list of books for the kids to choose from," she said. "I have a son who also hates reading and if he didn’t have a summer reading assignment he wouldn’t read anything. As it is, the assignment is so unstructured that he fought against doing it because there was no repercussion at the high school level for not doing it.”


Among the popular selections for elementary school students this summer were:

  • "A Wolf Called Wonder" by Rosanne Parry
  • "Big Nate: by Lincoln Peirce
  • "Catwad It’s Me" by Jim Benton
  • "Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls" by Dav Pilkey
  • "Flat Stanley" by Jeff Brown
  • "Good Night Beach" by Adam Gamble
  • "Good Night New Jersey" by Dennis Clark
  • The "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling
  • "Judy Moody" by Megan McDonald
  • "Junie B. Jones" series by Barbara Park
  • "Kane Chronicles" by Rick Riordan
  • "Maximum Ride" by James Patterson
  • "Raina Telgemeier" series by Raina Telgemeier
  • "Ranger’s Apprentice" by John Flanagan
  • "Warriors" by Erin Hunter
  • "Weird but True National Geographic" by Jonathan Halling
  • "When You Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead
  • "Who is Who Was" series by multiple authors
  • "Who Will Win" by Jerry Pallota

Some parent comments about the elementary school books:

Monika Thapar Khanna stated that her child likes “All of Raina Telgemeier’s books.”

Dakashna Bahadur Lang reported that her child enjoyed “The Warriors” series by Erin Hunter.

Sheetal Doctor Hardikar said, “‪My rising first grader loves ‘Erie Elementary.’ My rising third grader, ‘Kane Chronicles’ and ‘The Rangers Apprentice.’ He loves all Rick Riordan books. He finished Percy Jackson’s ‘Heroes of Olympus’ earlier in the year.”

Robin Altamore’s son is a “reluctant reader” but “loved ‘Dog Man: for Whom the Ball Rolls’ and all of Dav Pilkey’s ‘Captain Underpants’ books.”

Sasha Pailet Koff, a mother of both elementary school and middle school children, reported that their favorites were the "Dog Man" series, the "Amulet" series, "Dorothy Must Die" and the "Mortal Instruments" series.

Alvarine Syiem agreed, saying, “I can’t supply enough ‘Dog Man’ and ‘Big Nate’ books for my 6 year old.”

Akanksha Behari felt that series books encourage children to keep reading, especially if there’s a movie made of it.

“My daughter’s finished pretty much reading all ‘Dork Dairies’ and ‘Judy Moody,'" she said. "Started with ‘Nancy Drew’ series and she loves ‘Harry Potter.’ She reads and then watches the movie--this way, it encourages her to read the next one and compare the book and the movie.”

Jennifer Ziscand Kessler said her “rising first grader has a love of all ‘Junie B. Jones’ books," and that they "probably read 5-7 books” together this summer. 


Mt. Pleasant Middle School student favorites included:

  • The "Amulet" series by Kazu Kibuishi
  • "Mockingbird" by Katherine Erskine
  • "Thing About Jelly Fish (The)" by Ali Benjamin

Jennifer Ziscand Kessler shared that her sixth grader liked Percy Jackson’s “Heroes of Olympus” (on Heritage list).


Heritage Middle School students liked these books:

  • "Believe: The Victorious Story of Eric LeGrand (Young Reader’s Edition)" by Eric LeGrand & Mike Yorkey
  • "Dork Diaries" by Jeff Kinney
  • "Dorothy Must Die" by Danielle Paige
  • The "Harry Potter" series by J.K. Rowling 
  • "Heroes of Olympus" by Percy Jackson
  • "Nancy Drew" series created by Edward Stratemeyer and ghostwritten by various authors
  • "Steve Jobs Insanely Great: by Jessie Hartland

Heritage parent Chani Kuschuk Levine was impressed with the recommended book list this year.

"My son read the Eric LeGrand book, ‘Believe,’ and enjoyed it," said Levine. "I think it’s great they get a choice of relevant titles to pick from.”

Andrea Hoffmann noted that her eighth grader “loved ‘Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda,'" which was on the high school book list. 


Here are some of the popular books among high school students:

  • "A Song of Ice and Fire" series / "Game of Thrones" by George R.R. Martin
  • "After" by Anna Todd
  • "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman
  • "Hate U Give (The)" by Angie Thomas
  • "Mortal Instruments: by Cassandra Clare
  • "Noggin" by John Corey Whaley 
  • "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda" by Becky Albertalli
  • "Way I Used to Be (The): by Amber Smith

High school parents’ had the following comments about their children’s summer reading experience:

Christine Bennett Falchetta responded that her daughter and her daughter's friend both read and enjoyed "After" while on vacation; Gail Schrimmer said her child "loved ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ and ‘Noggin’”; Jennifer Hirsch Weisberger said her sophomore daughter "liked ‘The Hate U Give’ very much”;  Jennifer Lee reported that her child “loved ‘The Way I Used to Be’”; and Heather Padilla’s child liked “Mockingbird” as well as “The Thing about Jellyfish.”

Classes resume again for the 2019-2020 school year this Wednesday, Sept. 4.