An education organization on the East Coast is hoping more students delve into reading during their summer break. And that their reading list has more history books.

Following studies that revealed college students know little about America's history, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute wants more students to pick up books on its newly released reading list, which includes authors like Edmund Burke, John Adams, Herman Melville and Mark Twain.

To boost knowledge of how the country was founded, they also suggest topics including political thought, American literature and various biographies and autobiographies of influential people.

"The summer months are a perfect time for students to take charge of their own education on America," said Richard Brake, a member of ISI's University Stewardship division. "We hope that by encouraging students to read these American classics, that they will return to campus hungry for the kinds of courses that will add, not subtract from, their knowledge of American political and cultural life."

Students often leave middle and high schools with a recommended reading list, but few accomplish much in that regard. However, having the recommendation helps get them charged for the coming year and not spend so much down-time during the summer months.

ISI officials said adding more historical and cultural content to any summer reading list can have a beneficial outcome.

"Teaching America's story must once again become a priority for our nation's colleges and universities, and reading just a few of these books from our list is not a bad place for students to start this lifelong process of learning and acculturation," Brake said.

University of Utah history professor Janet Ellingson said that the more students know coming into classes in the fall, the better class work and lecturing tends to go. She'd prefer they have enthusiasm for the topics they study and admits history often is overlooked.

ISI has issued reports detailing how colleges and universities in the United States have failed to teach basic knowledge of American history and institutions. Nearly 50 percent of students surveyed in both 2006 and 2007 showed failing scores on basic points in U.S. history.

The reading list includes 30 books covering a wide range of important figures and themes in American history, political thought and literature. It is offered in response to the dismal results obtained from those civic literacy tests.

Though the list is not exhaustive, ISI encourages students to use it as a foundation for building their own catalogue of books for future reading. The list can be found online at isi.org.


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