Yes, colleges should require summer reading for incoming freshman. College is a big change from high school. Required summer reading helps prepare freshman for this change, while exposing them to new types of written material. It can even be fun if the college chooses the right books.
Exposing students to new types of written material is definitely a benefit of required summer reading lists. Students are given the opportunity to read books that they may never have read on their own, but are about issues that they can relate to. Summer reading books can also give students the opportunity to learn about the different types of courses they can take at college. Studies in anthropology, sociology or psychology will teach students about these popular course choices before they even set foot on the college campus.
Reading is also easily one of the most significant aspects of the college experience, and a required summer reading list helps to emphasize this. Freshman need to know that they are going to be expected to finish a certain amount of reading by the end of term, and that it will be up to them to keep up. A suggested guideline will be given but there will be no quiz each week to make sure they have read the required chapters. Summer reading will help prepare freshman for keeping up with a college-level amount of required reading.
In order for required summer reading lists to be effective, however, students need to know that at the end of the summer, they will be required to demonstrate what they have learned. Many colleges organize discussion groups or lectures that are held during the first week of school that allows students to discuss what they have learned, and also gives them the opportunity to participate in a lecture before real classes have begun. These opportunities only add to the potential benefits of required summer reading.
Some people may be against required summer reading because summer is a time to have fun and take a break from studying. Students need time to recharge after their stressful final year of high school. Yes, students do need a break, but they also need to realize that required summer reading is an excellent tool to help make the transition from high school to college more successful.