NEHS Common Readers
While the announcement of the NEHS Common Reader for 2018-2019 is forthcoming in the May NEHSXpress and is embedded in the Chapter Annual Report survey you received this past week, the several inquiries we have received lately would indicate there is interest in getting the decision to all of you sooner. After careful discussion and consideration of numerous recommendations, the Advisory Council decided to try something a bit different for the coming year. Reading research tells us giving students choice when it comes to independent reading has a positive impact on how much readers enjoy and engage in their reading. Therefore, we are going to move in this direction for the coming year and have identified two Common Readers; students interested in applying for the Merit Scholarships are invited to consider both texts and select the one they find most inviting. We will provide two separate prompt sets; no prompts will require that students compare the two texts. Assessment of the submitted essays will occur as in the past; we believe either text will generate excellent writing.
NEHS will embark on a new path for the Merit Scholarship competition for the 2018-2019 school year. While we will still require applicants for the scholarships to read a text and respond to a selected prompt by submitting an essay, we have decided to give NEHS members a choice between two novels. Reading research has long suggested student choice for independent reading is ideal—the Advisory Council decided to try this approach for the upcoming year. The two novels have some similarities but are set in different eras, one in Ohio in 1977, the other in China and Japan in 1937. One deals with a family tragedy, an event that exposes fault lines within the family; the other, set against the backdrop of the Japanese invasion of China, carefully and beautifully unveils human kindness and weakness. Applicants for the Merit Scholarships are to select ONE of these two texts as the basis of their application submissions, which will be due January 16, 2019.
The Samurai's Garden
The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama leads the reader to Tarumi, a quiet seaside village in Japan where Stephen, the Chinese protagonist, is sent to convalesce from tuberculosis. Isolated from family and friends, tended to by Matsu, the family caregiver and gardener, Stephen learns about human dignity, compassion, and rejection. From a review by Publisher's Weekly, "Tsukiyama's writing is crystalline and delicate, notably in her evocation of time and place. This quiet tale of affection between people whose countries are at war speaks of a humanity that transcends geopolitics."
Everything I Never Told You
The second option for the Common Reader is Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. From the first sentence of the novel, readers learn that Lydia, the middle child of a Chinese-American father and a white mother, is dead. This startling fact, known to the reader before the characters in the novel realize what has happens, becomes the catalyst around which swirl family secrets, frustrations, and anger, tempered aspirations, secrets and lies, accusations, denials, and resolutions. From National Public Radio, "This [the novel's harrowing story] all takes place in an era when interracial marriages are only recently legal (the Supreme Court struck down interracial marriage bans in 1967). Lydia's death forces members of the Lee family to confront their individual insecurities and grapple with their identity as a biracial family in the Midwest."