While many 15-year-old students forget about books during the summer months, many 10th-graders at Steamboat Springs High School have been reading through the pages of American history, learning about those who shaped the nation and its culture.
Students entering the American Studies class at the high school this fall were required to read a biography of a person who was born before 1960 and had an impact on the American way of life.
The students did not receive a list to choose from or an idea what the assignment was for but they have a clue that something will come up when school begins Aug. 27.
The chosen book of each individual has to be appropriate for a 10th-grade reading level.
Students were told about the assignment the last week of school and had all summer to read one book.
Patty Hanley is reading a biography about Jane Addams, a woman who started the Hull House orphanage in the late 19th century.
Her 263-page book is only one-fifth of the way read, but she still has three weeks to complete the assignment.
"I think that this was just to give us an idea of the course and give us a time period," Hanley said.
Although she only started about a week ago, Hanley said she's read a few books about orphanage homes that take in children from abusive or drug addicted parents.
"I've always been interested in orphanages. My mom worked at an orphanage when she was like 20 and my grandma was a history teacher," Hanley said, adding that her grandmother read the book and recommended it to Hanley.
Hanley said without people should appreciate the United States for having such a well-established system of orphanages.
Luke Belz, another 10th grade student is reading "Lance Armstrong: It's Not About the Bike." Whether Belz was inspired by Armstrong's fight with cancer and his triumph at the Tour de France or just needed a good read for the summer, the 275-page biography kept his attention for a whole week.
"He was born after 1960, but I had it cleared with my teacher," Belz said.
The book goes beyond Armstrong's biking career and takes a closer look at Armstrong's battle with cancer.
"I started like the first week in July. I liked it. It didn't take too long and it was interesting. I didn't mind it too much," Belz said.
Student Kaitlin Gallagher is taking her time with Dorothy Herrmann's "Helen Keller: A Life."
Although she still has a ways to go, she's not afraid of the 394-page book that lies in front of her.
She said she was fascinated with how Keller could communicate with the world with such limited senses.
"When I was little, I read some books about her, but never something in-depth," Gallagher said. "It's about her teacher and school and everything."
Gallagher also isn't afraid of the mystery assignment that awaits her return to school. She expects there will be some kind of book report or oral presentation.
Lisa Wilderman, 10th grade American Studies teacher, said the students will be required to make some assessment of the biography they chose, but that is up to each individual teacher.
Wilderman said she thinks reading over the summer enriches the discussions in the classroom and gives them a better understanding on what it means to be an American.
Although most students have a framework of ideas about American history, Wilderman said this pushes them to understand more about themselves also.
"What is an American?" is the theme for almost all American Studies classes, Wilderman said, and reading biographies on different people gives them a person they know well that they can continually refer to.
"The philosophy of the high school is learning should be a year-round activity and we've all grown into that," Wilderman said.
Tenth-grade students have been a part of the summer reading for the last five years, as well as the other students at the high school.
Wilderman said every grade of the school sees a summer filled with books as part of the high school's philosophy.
The incoming freshman class is reading "Around the World in 80 Days" for the summer, juniors are reading the "Odyssey," seniors are reading "The Glass Menagerie" and a modern literature choice and the seniors in Advanced Placement are reading some 19th century literature along with a modern literature choice, Wilderman said.