About Haylee Massaro

Haylee Massaro has been an education professional in the field of English Language Arts for 7 years, and she has gained experience teaching in both brick-and-mortar schools and online. She currently works as an educator both for secondary and for higher education. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Pittsburgh as well as an M.S.Ed. from Duquesne University.

With the holidays just around the corner, most teachers are gearing up for some time off and some much needed rest and relaxation. While these breaks can a wonderful time to re-charge for both teachers and students, sometimes progress made throughout the semester can be lost. For example, in 2015, Oxford Learning put out an article about Summer Learning Loss that detailed the statistics surrounding those losses, surmising that at least one full month of learning across subject areas is lost by our students.

Summer, however, is not the only time that our students are affected by learning loss. Long breaks can have a similar effect. The Telegraph raised this point a few years ago with their article, Don’t Romanticize Tedious School Holidays.  The statistics on learning loss over long breaks causes teachers to ponder what can be done to help to combat this issue while still allowing our students some time for rest and relaxation.

Student-curated reading can combat learning loss

As a language arts teacher, I am constantly thinking of ways to get students interested in reading. A lot of times, our curriculum content is finite, which means that there may be little flexibility. However, students can venture outside of the curriculum while still gaining the learning benefits. T.S. Eliot wrote in his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” that while traditional pillars of literature should certainly be valued, new work and “different” works may have great value as well. Really, what we get out of a piece of literature depends largely on us as individuals. Eliot urges his readers to create their own collection of pieces that are classic for them.

Taking Eliot’s ideas to heart, I recently started asking students to come up with short reading lists in class to delve into over the holidays. While this exercise isn’t always successful for all students – as nothing every is – as a whole, I found that it worked well. Student’s seemed excited to share and discuss their favorites with myself and with their peers.

I recently started asking students to come up with short reading lists Click To Tweet

The Follow-up

While this isn’t a graded activity, it makes for a good icebreaker after a school break. Typically, I ask students to share what they read. Sometimes several students will select similar items, which creates an enriching class discussion.

Popular Items & Choices

Several selections keep popping up year after year and class after class. Below is a list of popular selections for students who are looking for suggestions.

  1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  2. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
  3. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher (this one has become especially popular since the Netflix series came out)
  4. various selections from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  5. Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
  6. One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
  7. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard (when the T.V. show came out, these were incredibly popular)
  8. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien (these usually prove to be a bit of a challenge over a winter break, so I’ve also suggested The Hobbit, which is much shorter and easier to get through in a limited amount of time)
  9. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  10. Eragon by Christopher Paolini


If anything, this activity gets  students reading and gets them thinking, so that all is not lost over a lengthy school break!

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