All-School Read and Write

Loomis Chaffee student writing and studying in the Katharine Brush Library

Dear students, faculty, and Loomis Chaffee community members,

This summer, instead of the traditional all-school read, we are asking you to explore a collection of reading materials and then engage in written reflection about your experience during the spring and summer of 2020. 

The first half of this year has been characterized by a degree of social disruption and change that many of us have never before experienced in our lifetimes. The COVID-19 pandemic closed down businesses and schools all over the world. On March 16, 2020, Loomis Chaffee joined the ranks of schools venturing into the world of online distance learning for the entirety of the spring term. Travel became highly restricted. Countless events that bind us together—athletic competitions, concerts, graduation ceremonies—were cancelled. Millions of Americans filed for unemployment, and the first responders and essential workers who continued to work through the pandemic found themselves facing unprecedented challenges and risks. 

Back in March or April, it would have been difficult to imagine that any other topic could rival the pandemic in terms of its impact on our discourse and daily lives. On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed when a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes, even after Mr. Floyd became unresponsive. The killing of George Floyd, part of a pattern of reprehensible acts that took the lives of other Black Americans, including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, sparked protests that have rocked our already teetering sense of complacency. Across the nation and around the globe, people took to the streets and various online platforms to insist that Black lives matter and to demand systemic reform of the institutions that perpetuate violence, injustice, and inequality. 

The pandemic and questions of social justice are far from independent of one another. Asians and Asian Americans have faced blatant racism and personal attacks as a result of ignorant perceptions around COVID-19. The pandemic has exposed dramatic disparities in social and economic systems and health outcomes, as Black communities, Latinx communities, and Native American communities have been hit disproportionately hard by the disease. The very idea of social responsibility is revealed to be more complicated than we might think when we see protestors donning masks to gather and march.

The Assignment: All of these factors have reinforced our decision to transform the all-school read into an opportunity for writing and reflection. Whether you choose to write about the pandemic, current events surrounding race and racism in America, or some combination of the two, we hope that this assignment will allow you first to process and then to communicate—to share what has been unique about your individual experience and to connect with others over what is universal about living through these historic months. What can your voice add to the conversation? Where does your personal story intersect with the story of our times?

We want to invite many genres and modes of expression: letters, personal essays, poetry, podcasts, interviews, comic strips, and more. To offer guidance and inspiration as you think about what you might want to create, we have provided prompts and reading materials (see below). Some of these pieces were written during the current pandemic and protests; others focus on past events with parallels to the present. Collectively, the works featured represent a variety of ways that writers have reflected upon moments of crisis and social change. Read and listen to all of the materials on this page and investigate some of the links before you begin writing. 

Students should be prepared to submit their work to their advisors at the start of the fall term. Submissions do not need to be long to be thoughtful. While we recommend that most pieces should be between 250 and 750 words, we acknowledge that some genres may lend themselves to shorter or longer submissions. In addition, you should not feel constrained by the categories below. If you have a creative idea, we want to hear from you.

Finally, we know that many students completed projects or writing assignments about the pandemic in their classes this spring. Assignments that were written for class may not be submitted to the All-School Read and Write; you should plan to expand beyond your class assignment or experiment with another topic or genre. 

Please contact Kate Saxton (, Director of Writing Initiatives, or Elizabeth Parada (, Dean of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, with any questions about the project. We wish you good luck, good health, and productive writing.

Requirements: What do we expect from you?

  • Read and listen to all of the materials collected on this page.
  • Explore some of the supplementary links that interest you or that relate to the genre of writing you plan to undertake.
  • Generate a piece of writing (or a creative submission with a clear writing component) that explores social disruption and change in 2020; you may choose to reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic, race and racism in America, or the relationship between these phenomena. 
  • Aim to write between 250 and 750 words.
  • Be prepared to submit your work to your advisor on the first day of the fall term.

Prompts: Where should you begin?

You could write about…

  • something that you have found especially challenging. When have you experienced loss or adversity this spring?
  • something that you are grateful for or hopeful about. What are the unexpected benefits of isolation or of the disruption to the status quo that we have seen? What hopes do you have for positive change in the future?
  • someone who has inspired, frustrated, or surprised you as you have watched them navigate present circumstances.
  • somewhere that will never be the same. Think about the spaces and places that are important to you and how these locations have changed, in ways large or small, over the past several months.
  • something that you want to teach others or share with others. Do you have any personal expertise or have you conducted any research that can contribute to a productive dialogue?

Reading Materials: What can you create?

Consider the categories and examples below.