By Cynthia Boaz
Project Coordinator, American Democracy Project
Department of Political Science & International Studies

This report summarizes and analyzes surveys of students and instructors on the 2005 Summer Reading Program and the book selected for this year, “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon. The surveys were administered via Angel, and promoted through an email sent to all faculty and students involved in the Academic Planning Seminars in the Fall of 2005. Both surveys were conduced anonymously. A total of 32 instructors completed the instructor survey, and 274 students completed the student survey (it should be noted that both surveys were elective, so these response rates, especially among the students, are impressive.)

The results are included in Table 1 (Students) and Table 2 (Instructors), found at the end of this report. Almost all of the students (96%), but only about half of the instructors (53%) received a copy of “The Curious Incident.” Nearly all of the students (91%) claimed to have read the book, while a somewhat surprising 44% of instructors admitted to not reading it. Students and instructors agreed that requiring the students to buy the book themselves would not have increased their likelihood of reading it (87% and 93%, respectively.) Given the already high rate of those students claiming to have read the book, there seems to be no need to change this particular practice.

We asked several questions specific to “The Curious Incident.” The percentages of students (66%) who found the book informative was surprisingly low, given the specificity of the book’s content (Asperger’s Syndrome). Of those who did not read “The Curious Incident”, 51% of the students as opposed 38% of the instructors stated that they would have been more likely to read something on a different topic. These results suggest is that the content of the book mattered more to students than to instructors. This finding is consistent with the surveys from the 2004 reading selection. Students and instructors both agreed that SRP should continue in summer 2006, but to varying degrees. While 100% of instructors stated that it should continue, only 66% of students indicated the same preference (somewhat surprising, given the percentage of students who read the book.) This finding suggests that student input as to book selection for the SRP may positively impact their experience.

Student ambivalence about the SRP may have been due to a lack of attention to the book in APS classes, as 54% of students responded that “The Curious Incident” was incorporated into their APS section. (Interestingly, 67% of APS instructors indicated that they had incorporated the book into their course.) A slightly greater (but comparable) percentage of students (45%) than professors (39%) believed that the subject matter of the book made it difficult to integrate into the curriculum. This suggests that discussions of the book in classes may not be entirely effective, given the specialized nature of the subject matter (i.e. it may be inaccessible for some students and difficult for some faculty – those in disciplines in which the book does not fit easily—to teach.)

The open-ended instructor comments are very diverse. The first question asked which type of book is most appropriate for the SRP. Many faculty answered that an American book would be more accessible (it would have fewer barriers in the language, for example), and several also commented that the very specific and somewhat obscure nature of the issue in “The Curious Incident” made it difficult for students to relate to. Several instructors also answered that this year’s book may have been too complex for freshman. Others wrote that the topic should be timely and relevant to almost everyone.

On the question that asked about improvements to SRP, most instructors expressed satisfaction with the way in which the program is run and how instructors (especially APS) are given helpful guidelines to integrate the book into their courses. On the question that asked instructors what kinds of things would make it easier to incorporate the SRP into their classes, many wrote that they’d like to receive a copy of the book before the end of the Spring semester. Others suggested continuing the SRP lecture series, and also to have a “discussion session” among instructors interested in the using the book early on in the semester.

We also asked students an open-ended question on whatever feedback they’d like to submit regarding “The Curious Incident” and the SRP. Over a third of the students answering the survey (95) commented. It is difficult to summarize the variance in the responses, but by and large the comments were constructive and positive. Many students said that they’d have appreciated more time spent on the book in their courses, given the amount of time they’d put into reading it.
Collectively, the survey results suggest several things.

  1. Continue to distribute the book to all incoming first-year students free of charge over the summer.
  2. The content of the book is very significant to the students. They want something that is topical and accessible, while faculty want something that is significant and relevant to their courses. Obviously, few books will meet all of these criteria to everyone’s satisfaction, but perhaps having several students on future SRP book selection committees may help.
  3. Continue to make more of an attempt to integrate the SRP into the co-curriculum (invite speakers, sponsor lectures, conduct debates, get residence hall and other co-curricular staff more involved, etc.)
  4. Continue to provide guidance to APS instructors on how to incorporate the book in their classes using lesson plans, materials, etc. The APS instructor seminar in August of 2005 was very helpful in making suggestions for integrating the book into courses. Also, make a special effort to encourage non-APS faculty to incorporate the SRP book into their classes. Make these materials easily available to them (including giving out free copies of the book) would provide additional incentive

Table 1: Students

Survey Question Total Yes (%) Total No (%) N/A Total Responses
1. Did you receive a copy of “The Curious Incident” in summer 2005? 263 (96%) 10 (4%) 0 273
2. Did you read “The Curious Incident”? 249 (91%) 25 (9%) 0 274
3. If you did read “The Curious Incident”, did you find the book informative? 178 (66%) 64 (23%) 26 (10%) 268
4. If you did not read “The Curious Incident”, would you have been more likely to read a book on a different topic/subject? 30 (51%) 28 (49%) 0 58
5. If students been required to purchase “The Curious Incident”, on your own, do you think they would have been more likely to read it? 34 (13%) 237 (87%) 0 271
6. Has your APS instructor incorporated “The Curious Incident” into your class discussions? 145 (54%) 126 (46%) 0 271
7. Have any of your other (non APS) instructors incorporated the book into class discussions? 77 (28%) 194 (72%) 0 271
8. Did the subject matter of “The Curious Incident” make it difficult to incorporate into your classes? 120 (45%) 148 (55%) 0 268
9. Have you had any discussions of “The Curious Incident” or the subject matter of the book outside of your classes - in residence halls, with other students, with faculty, etc.? 132 (48%) 142 (52%) 0 274
10. Do you recommend that we continue with the Summer Reading Program next year? 179 (66%) 92 (34%) 0 271

Table 2: Instructors

Survey Question Total Responses Total Yes (%) Total No (%)
1. Were you an Academic Planning Seminar (APS)/GEP 100 instructor for the Fall 2005 semester? 32 10 (31%) 22 (69%)
2. If you are NOT an APS/GEP 100 instructor, do/did you teach a course with a majority of freshman students (greater than 50 percent) during the Fall 2005 semester? 22 11 (50%) 11 (50%)
3. Did you receive a copy of “The Curious Incident”? 32 17 (53%) 15 (47%)
4. Did you read “The Curious Incident”? 32 18 (56%) 14 (44%)
5. If you did read “The Curious Incident”, did you find the book informative? 17 14 (82%) 3 (18%)
6. If you did not read “The Curious Incident”, would you have been more likely to read a book on a different topic/subject? 13 5 (38%) 8 (62%)
7. If students were required to purchase “The Curious Incident” on their own, do you think they would be more likely to read it? 28 2 (7%) 26 (93%)
8. If you are an APS/GEP 100 instructor Fall 2005, have you incorporated “The Curious Incident” in your APS/GEP 100 class? 15 10 (67%) 5 (33%)
9. If you are an instructor for any class (other than APS/GEP 100), have you incorporated “The Curious Incident” into your classes (excluding APS/GEP 100)? 18 3 (17%) 15 (83%)
10. Did the subject matter of “The Curious Incident” make it difficult for you to incorporate the book into your classes? 23 9 (39%) 14 (61%)
11. Are you comfortable with someone else selecting a book for one of your classes? 26 15 (58%) 11 (42%)
12. Should we continue with the Summer Reading Program during summer 2005? 25 25 (100%) 0
Survey Question </th > Total Responses Summer (%) Orientation (%)
13. When should the Summer Reading Program book be distributed 25 19 (76%) 6 (24%)

Appendix 1: Open-Ended Responses to Instructor Surveys

1. What kind of book is most appropriate for the Summer Reading Program?

  1. Not sure.
  2. American books present fewer challenges in the use of language. I number among my pupils not one who knew that a “tip” had to do with garbage, that nylon stockings “ladder” rather than run, and so on. The references to Sherlock Holmes presuppose that the students are familiar with the Holmes Canon. They are not. Nor should they be. We have sufficient literature and concerns of our own, in my opinion, so that we need not look abroad for a book for the students to read.
  3. It varies, but one that somehow uses personal experience (which students seem more easily to relate to) with larger issues of social, cultural significance.
  4. Nickel and Dimed was easier to incorporate because it allowed students to relate it to the value of a college education. The APS objectives and outcomes make it more difficult to easily fit it into the schedule
  5. An entertaining, but enlightening book on any general social issue that we believe students are not likely to have been well-educated on, but will find interesting
  6. One that can be discussed from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, deals with contemporary issues, and is written in a way that is engaging for young people.
  7. The things they carried
  8. The Curious Incident was not simple to incorporate, but that doesn’t mean it was not valuable. Books that challenge a high school graduate’s perceptions about the world, or self, or values would all be appropriate.
  9. relatively short, “easy” reads they should deal with issues that satisfies at least one of the following: something our students face or will face, a current “hot” topic, a topic that goes beyond our current gen ed (for example, a topic such as community service), or a topic dealing with their personal finance I personally rec. the last topic: personal finance. Each student is concerned with money, so let’s start with a book that talks about making money, saving money and of course charitable giving and it benefits.
  10. Something informative and interesting but not too rigorous or complex. For those types of books, I believe you need frequent contact during the reading process. I have no problem with a committee selecting a text for my class as long as I can have some input as to the possible selections. I think the committee did an outstanding job with the this year’s selection. It was a fantastic book that gave great insights into people like Chris.
  12. A nonfiction book, preferably complex and multi-sided in its politics and philosophies, and with a broad topic (not something overly-specific and obscure like Aspringer’s Syndrome). I am a fiction writer, and I don’t think fiction should be bent to be “consumable” by all sorts of disciplines. It is likely illogical to think that fiction is applicable to reality, such as pretending that a fictional character like Christopher is any sort of model for real life Aspringer’s Syndrome. Frankly, it’s insulting to real people with Aspringer’s Syndrome (not the book itself, but the pedagogical assumption that the book can speak for real life). I also think the book should be a challenge to first-year readers in its subject and in its language. “The Curious Incident…” is essentially a young adult novel.

2. What improvements do you think should be made to the Summer Reading Program?

  1. Not sure.
  2. I like the program and I like the helpful guidelines.
  3. This was simply a tough book, both for students to get through and to teach. But, more students “enjoyed” this reading than Ehrenreich.
  4. I think the information provide to APS instructors was excellent. Perhaps early agreement on what response to the work a student will be expected to provide will bring the student to campus ready to engage in such a discussion.
  5. I think the selection committee is doing a good job. One book that I would recommend for consideration next year is ‘Fast Food Nation.’
  6. The activities suggested in the APS manual were very helpful, I hope they keep coming..the more the better. Include possible discussion topics for Angel.
  7. About half of the students indicated that they had not read the book during the summer. We might want to think of ways to encourage them to read it before orientation. Perhaps at orientation, some exercises could be conducted to be sure they had read the book before classes started. Perhaps indicating that the book will be discussed and exercises conducted during orientation will encourage students to read the book over the summer. There will always be some who will not read it, but I think the program should continue.

3. What would make it easier for you to incorporate the Summer Reading Program book into your classes?

  1. Not sure.
  2. Send the book to the instructors before Spring semester is over. Have the seminars twice: once on a M, W, or F and once on a T, or Th. This way our teaching classes won’t interfere with our in service education.
  3. if i knew about it months in advance
  4. Nothing, since both books were incorporated into the course. Honestly, I think the books should be incorporated into the ENL courses, which is a more natural fit.
  5. Nickel and Dimed opened the door for discussions in ethics which fits into several areas of interest to the campus. With ADP we have been looking at civic engagement and that book addressed that topic as well. I feel that, if the book selected addressed one of the many global topics on campus it might be easier to incorporate in a course curriculum
  6. Receiving a copy of the book.
  7. Suggestions for assignments
  8. N/A
  9. (1) getting a copy of the book ahead of time (2) having some math related content (this one did …with the Monty Hall Problem
  10. With APS it was easy to incorporate, but when I teach, say an intro-level class in teh fall at least half of the class aren’t freshmen. So it’s hard to incorporate it without adopting it as a core text. It’s usually somewhat relevant, but not central enough to justify adoption.
  11. I teach music courses. It is very difficult to incorporate the books into my classes. But I loved this book; I had already it more than a year ago. You made a good choice.
  12. See response to 14
  13. More than likely, it will be difficult to incorporate much into a Computer Science course. There would have to be some technology issues involved.
  14. Perhaps a discussion session before school starts with APS instructors. This may have been done this year, and if so, it should be continued. More and different application ideas would also be helpful.
  16. a much larger, more common subject matter with wide-ranging political, philosophical and cultural applications and with built-in CONTROVERSY (necessary for almost any compelling class conversation)

Appendix 1: Open-Ended Responses to Student Surveys

1. Are there any comments or feedback you would like to submit regarding “The Curious Incident” or the Summer Reading Program?

  1. I cant even read.
  2. it was a bad book…very boring
  3. I took the APS seminar during the semester as a junior transfer. The book was not used in the course, however, it was among a selection of books that we had to choose from to do a social assessment for HBSE I. The book was interesting and I would recommend it to others
  4. I think this book was very interesting and I got “hooked” into reading it.
  5. Really odd book, but interesting at the same time. Next year maybe you should have Homer’s Iliad as the summer reading book.
  6. I thought the book was very good and I enjoyed it!
  7. I liked the book a lot. Most students didn’t really care to read it but i thought it was very interesting. The only thing is that we never even went over the book in my APS class.
  8. If the material that the book covers was easier to ingratiate into more classes it would be more beneficial to read it, but since this book was difficult to use in other classes it felt like a waste of time by the end of the semester because so few professors actually used it.
  9. You should make the reading optional…because some people may find this interesting and others may not.
  10. I liked the book but I didn’t know why we had to read it if we only wrote one paper about it.
  11. I don’t think that having the summer reading program helps with the nerves of incoming freshman. I think that as the new freshman are getting ready to come to school they are thinking about leaving loved ones and friends, and about all of the stuff they need to worry about such as getting books, finding classrooms etc. I think that adding one more stress is not healthy and is something that freshman don’t need. The summer reading program was said to help put all of the new students on the same page, but if they are all new students, then they are already on the same page, work with the nerves and the jitters that they have, don’t force more on them.
  12. Great Book!
  13. No
  14. At first i did not want to read the book, but i found that once i started to read it i couldn’t put it down. I really enjoyed this summer read.
  15. I think the summer reading program is a good idea but the book needs to be good. I really did not enjoy the curious incident. it just was not a very enticing book.
  16. none
  17. I read some of the book and found it very interesting but i put off reading it at first because i judged it by its cover i guess you’d say and it didn’t seem very appealing at all
  18. stop giving us homework before classes start
  19. I started to read the book and I lost interest in it.
  20. I know many people with Aspergers Syndrome so I was very familiar with the subject matter so I didn’t feel that the lack of discussion on the book affected me.
  21. it was a great book, but as my survey reflect i think it was hard to incorporate unless you had maybe psychology classes, but even that is a little advance for a freshman course. I think a coming of age novel would be better suited for incoming freshmen.
  22. Well for the most part I felt a little “jipped” because i was one of the students who did read the book and had nothing to show for that. I’m not sure i would want a test on it, however, nothing happened to the kids who didn’t read the book, so i constantly questioned why i did. Since this happened, i will be more likely to not read a summer reading book for Brockport
  23. No.
  24. I think that the summer reading program helped me get into the swing of things before college started, and got my brain thinking.
  25. Pick a more exciting book that students would be more likely to read. something that is on the best seller list that doesn’t have to be politically correct
  26. It was a good book.
  27. I genuinely liked this book, but it seemed like we were required to read it, but then once we got to school, nothing happened. I would have rather read other books that were more my genre. If the books are either more geared towards school, or are simply incorporated more in the classroom, I think it will make the program a lot better
  28. It was a cool book, I don’t think that I would have bought it, but since it was free, I read it. The book is just one of those different books in the sense that the style is cool, I’d recommend the book to anyone for fun.
  29. The curious incident was good, i felt like no teacher felt like they could be bothered enough to talk about it which was discouraging because almost everyone i know read it
  30. no
  31. I thought that it was a good book. I think that the summer reading program is a good way to bring students together when they begin school, however i just feel that the students are not reading them.
  32. nope
  33. If you are going to pick a book to read make it have some substance something that college kids can relate to.
  34. Summer reading is a joke for college students. We receive enough work as it is besides reading a book that is not useful to furthering our knowledge. Please drop this pointless program to make incoming freshman enjoy their first few weeks of school a little more.
  35. I read it but I really did not find it very interesting or relevant.
  36. The reading program was good, try to choose a better book for next year though, and incorporate it because I read it and we did nothing with it.
  37. The books need to be more interesting, almost everyone i talked to did not read it. The book was a bore
  38. I didnt receive the book in the mail, and i was not aware that i had to read that book before classes start. the 3rd day i was here i had to take a quiz on it. and later an essay. needless to say i was a little pissed.
  39. It’s pointless…no one will read over summer, especially if it’s not used….
  40. I think this program is pointless because I didn’t do anything here that had anything to do with the book…and most people didn’t even read it anyway.
  41. no
  42. A suggestion for next year’s book: “The Kite Runner”
  43. I believe that this book was pointless. I did not feel for any of the characters. It did not cause me to be moved emotionally or to take action. It was just as Hamlet would say “Words Words Words”.
  44. i thought it was a waste of time to read. especially if we didn’t talk about it in any of my classes.
  45. This was a fun book to read and i enjoyed it
  46. I thought the book was different and interesting.
  47. I brought the book with me when I went on vacation and I read it on the plane. I don’t think I would have read it if I hadn’t gone on vacation, but it ended up being a good book.
  48. I don’t think we should have to read a summer reading book if we never even discuss it. It’s pointless
  49. we did a program in our residence hall with the RA’s. Thompson Hall
  50. None
  51. The only reason that i used the book was because i had to use it in my APS class and go to seminars about it. I did read some of it but not all of it. I was hard for other teachers to incorporate it into their class even my college composition class.
  52. Enjoyed reading the book- however if it is not incorporated into any form of the curriculum… what is the point?
  53. I like the fact that the book picked was a novel. It was nice to read a good novel before coming to school and reading a lot of plain jane text. I think continuing to pick those kinds of books for summer reading is a good idea.
  54. I think that the summer reading program should be kept up because it gives people a chance to experience books they normally would not have chosen to read outside of their preferable reading genre
  55. n o
  56. make sure u pick a book with an interesting title and cover again… it made me want to read it
  57. This book was a good choice because it was a quick, easy, interesting read. If this program continues I hope you choose interesting, quick reads and students wont just ignore it.
  58. If you do continue the summer reading program either pick a book that is easier for people to enjoy (the writing style made me cringe), or give people a list that they can pick from.
  59. I don’t think the Summer Reading Program did anything for me. It was a good book, but they never talked about it in ANY of my classes.
  60. I think that it should be used more in a classroom if the students have to read it. It was nice that there were discussions and such outside of classes, but I feel that there should have been more done in the classroom.
  61. The summer reading program was honestly, a waste of my time because none of my classes incorporated the book into the the lecture. I did not like the book at all and I did not find it informative at all. I found the plot confusing and not related to real life at all. I would have read the book that was required last year,”nickled and dimed” or a book about a different topic. I feel that the APS teachers, or even the College Comp teachers should do a lecture on the book so that it was not a waste of time to read the book.
  62. I really enjoyed the book.
  63. no
  64. I feel that the summer reading program is not effective.
  65. nope
  66. i really enjoy summer reading and do it on my own any way but i wish there had been a selection of books or subjects for us to read about rather than being forced to read a certain book.
  67. The book had a slow start and you just had to keep pushing yourself to keep reading, but then it seemed to pick up speed and got very interesting.
  68. I really liked the book and wish it was discussed more in classes.
  69. no teachers even use it. we shouldn’t have the program if its not even used.
  70. i enjoyed the book a lot
  71. I didn’t have any teachers refer to the book, so i don’t really why it was supposed to be read.
  72. It was very difficult to take time out of my summer to read the book when I was trying to get ready for college and work at my job. Receiving an assignment from college during the summer puts more stress on the student. I did read the book, but I felt it was a waste of my time because none of my professors talked of the book. If you continue the summer reading program, which I do not advise, then you should allow the student to pick a book of their choice to read.
  73. no
  74. have the students take a vote on a list of books to read for the next year. the students who had aps select the book for the students who will take aps.
  75. It helped that SUNY Brockport gave the book to students because nobody would have read it. I wish my professor would have incorporate the book in class more often.
  76. I felt that “The Curios Incident” was a very good book and I enjoyed reading it. Even though it was required to be read, I finished the book in about 2 days. It was really good.
  77. I thought the book was very good and I think anyone who read it would agree with me. For the people who didn’t read it I think if they gave it a try they would of really enjoyed the book as well.
  78. terrible book
  79. i felt that the book was informative but it was not the type of book that i would ever read.
  80. Reading this book made me realize how lucky my brother is. He has the same mental illness as the boy in the book, Aspergers, and luckily his case is not as extreme as the boy’s case. And for people who think Aspergers is Autism, I would like to say that you are wrong. I’ve lived with Autistic people and I’ve lived with my brother, they might share certain similarities, but they are in no way shape or form the same thing.
  81. Although I did not like this book, it was however, easy to read. It wasn’t like something that I had to drill through in high school. I think that you should be sure that you pick a light book to read over during the summer rather than something stiff and awkward.
  82. i went to one discussion about aspbergers syndrome, and while it was very informative, i believe that reading the book was a complete waste of time. i never even cracked the book open after i read it in august. it was an all right book, and one that was a quick read outside of school, but since we never had any discussions on it other than at orientation and in the four discussion groups that were held—outside of classes—i felt that it was ridiculous for me to have spent any time reading it. i don’t recommend continuing the summer reading program unless there will be in-class discussions. the school makes college comp and aps mandatory classes, yet, not one time was Curious Incident ever brought up. i think that that is something that annoyed a great deal of people who read the book.
  83. I didn’t really like the book at all. I didn’t think that it portrayed an autistic child at all. It wasn’t easy to follow, and I think that the whole plot of the book is/was unappealing and non-enjoyable.
  84. I think that all of the seminars were great and very informative.
  85. Honestly, it was probably the first book i have ever read cover to cover; and i loved every word of it!
  86. The book should be more involved in the course work. It was rarely used and discouraged students from reading due to the knowledge of its rare use.
  87. I think that if the student shave to read it as part or orientation, then it should be incorporated more into their first year experience program. I mean, at the beginning of my first semester at Brockport, I was told that there was going to be activities in the dorms and that it would be incorporated into our other classes, but i have yet to see that happen. Although, I did find that the different lectures on the book helpful to help grasp some concepts that may have not been clean when I first read the novel.
  88. I think the idea of a summer reading program is a good idea for freshman students. It allows incoming students to get into the swing of school and realize its importance. I would recommend continuing the program.
  89. “The Curious Incident” was a very difficult book to read but in the end it really taught a lot of information for being such a short book. Because the underlying issues were so controversial I think a lot of students didn’t really enjoy the reading.
  90. If the objective was to expose people to reading more, perhaps letting us choose our own book to read. I think students would be more likely to read if it was something of interest. If the objective was to expose students to a certain subject matter, perhaps a list of books that we can choose from. I find that choice is usually a key factor that determines whether we do the assignment or not.
  91. It was interesting for me because in high school there was a boy with the same disorder and I could understand the boy in the book very well.
  92. I have done the summer reading project at another college, where during orientation days before class we got into small groups around campus and discussed the new book, they also incorporated it into Eng Comp. The only problem with that book is that people couldn’t relate. If there was a summer reading book for next year I would highly suggest “No Excuses” by Kyle Maynard, it’s a book written by a student our age and its an amazing story. Samantha Jekel
  93. I found it to be a great read.
  94. Yeah, Next time let me know That we Have summer reading before I get on campus. STUPID! I never received anything Regarding it!
  95. It felt like a huge waste of time, reading the novel. No one discussed it, no one involved it in our classes.
  96. I thought it was a very interesting book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes to learn a lot of information at once.