Revised Summer Reading at Oakdale

June 10, 2021

Summary of Changes to Summer Reading:

  • 5th-8th grade students are encouraged to read Black Brother, Black Brother for their summer reading book.
  • If that book is not acceptable, students are encouraged to choose one off of the Rocket Reading Lists (linked below).
  • If the Rocket Reading List doesn't have an acceptable book, students are encouraged to read any book of their choice.
  • The assignments for each grade level (linked below) are not mandatory and will be used for extra credit in the ELA class.

The Longer Version:

The Summer Reading Book:

Every summer, we select a summer reading book and assignment for our middle school students to keep them engaged in independent reading over the summer break to avoid the summer slide (regression of reading skills), and to encourage a life-long habit of reading for pleasure. The rationale for selecting one common book for our middle schoolers is that it gives them the opportunity to have an anchor text to reference throughout the school year that all students have read.

This year, the summer reading novel, Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewel Parker Rhodes, has come under some scrutiny due to its focus on racial differences. Some parents have expressed that they would like additional parental choice in selecting an appropriate book for their child; it was decided that they could choose an alternative book off of the Rocket Reading Lists. Students and parents may choose one of the books off of the lists and complete the assignment on whichever fiction book they choose (linked below with summaries for each book). There are several great non-fiction books on the lists that unfortunately will not work for most of the summer reading assignments which are based on Oklahoma Academic Standards for reading fiction. Further, if none of the books on the list are acceptable for your family, please feel free to select any other fiction book that you would like.

The Summer Reading Assignment:

The middle school ELA teachers each created an assignment for students to complete. These are historically taken for a grade (with teacher discretion to give grace as needed). This year, however, we are putting the grade in the gradebook in ELA as an “extra” assignment. The assignment can be used to replace one daily assignment grade during the 1st quarter grading period. This means that the assignment can only help students, not hurt them. The assignment links are listed below and are on the school website for each grade level (

The Rocket Reading Lists:

The Rocket Reading Lists are yearly, optional reading lists - one for 5th/6th graders and one for 7th/8th graders. Our middle school librarian, Mrs. Jenny Jones, carefully looks over many reading lists and publications to find current books (published in the last two years) that are appropriate in reading level, are age appropriate, and have a high interest level for those two grade bands of students. There are 15 books on each list, although this year’s lists share two books: Black Brother, Black Brother and War Stories by Gordan Korman. Before the 20-21 school year, we had relied on the Sequoyah list created by the Oklahoma Library Association for 6th-8th graders, but had found that some of the books dealt with mature topics and had language that was not appropriate for our younger students. To rectify this, we began to create our own lists - a daunting task! Mrs. Jones invests much time and energy into the lists, relying on book reviews from multiple library associations and book lists. We have edited the 5th/6th grade list as of 6/10/21 to delete one book and add another. Please see the link below for the updated list. Because of the time involved, beginning this summer we will convene a committee for this process. It will be composed of parents, teachers, administrators, and the librarian. We will start this committee in July and have the next year’s list ready by May 2022 for the following school year.

Throughout the school year, starting with the Rocket Reading Kick Off in late September, the students are encouraged to read books on the list. There are rewards for certain numbers of books read beginning with reading three to vote, and culminating with the highest reward of reading twelve of the fifteen books to enjoy a trip to Pops in May. Our winner for the 2020-21 Rocket Reading List was Allies by Alan Gratz. This reading list is completely optional, and is only intended to encourage students to independently read throughout the school year.


Hopefully, this helps you further understand the process, explains the changes we have made, and dispels misunderstandings regarding summer reading and the Rocket Reading Lists. Please feel free to contact me if you need more information. I am happy to meet with anyone who needs more clarification.


Jill Willhoite

Middle School Principal

Oakdale School