I used to spend a lesson or two getting students ready for summer reading. We’d have a visit from the local librarian about their summer reading program, and we’d have a few conversations about how important reading is over the summer. That was it. I have changed my stance a bit. I no longer see getting ready for summer reading as separate from our end-of-year celebration of our reading lives, and I no longer see summer reading as worthy of only a quick lesson or two.
When I think about my own summer reading, I know I plan it out for months. As I find books I don’t have time to read during the school year, I add them to my mental summer reading stack. As summer approaches, I pay more attention to books being released soon, since I know I’ll have extra time to read. For me, summer reading is the best kind of reading, and I want my kids to know that feeling too.
This year, many of our May minilessons will teach reading behaviors while getting kids ready for their summer reading. I know my students have different needs as readers. Some will have books at home, and others will visit the local library. Some have tablets and access to the Internet, and others don’t. Some will rely on ebooks that they can access immediately, and others will share books with friends. My lessons will provide support for students, no matter their circumstances.
Summer Reading Notebooks
For the past several years, I’ve had my students decorate little notebooks to keep track of books they want to read. I find the creation of something they love a great way to kick off our summer reading conversation. We’ll kick off the summer reading conversations with these same notebooks this year. They’ll keep these at school for the duration of the two-week lesson cycle so they can add titles and website addresses of resources. This gives them a place to keep their summer reading plans, and it is small enough to carry around with them when they visit libraries and bookstores over the summer.
Daily Reading Celebrations
Throughout the month of May, we’ll celebrate “Reading That’s Changed Us,” an idea I got from Mary Lee Hahn years ago. I may read an exceprt from Anna Quindlen’s book How Reading Changed My Life to jump-start this assignment. Each day during the last month of school, we will celebrate one child’s third-grade reading. We’ll celebrate with an excerpt of their choice: a book or text that mattered to them for some reason. This will serve as a celebration and a book talk each day. Ideally, students will be drawn to some books they didn’t get to or weren’t interested in during the school year.
Sharing My Own Plans
I’ll share my plan for summer reading as one day’s minilessons. I want my students to know how much I cherish summer reading and how with just an hour or two a day, I can finish a book a day. I take part in Donalyn Miller’s #bookaday challenge and I will share my plans for that this year. I’ve counted the days in my summer vacation this year, and I’ll have 72 days. I’ll talk to my students about my plan to read 72 books. I don’t expect my students to join this challenge (although one or two often do), but I want kids to rethink the idea of summer reading. This lesson lets them see how excited I am about this extra time to read. It also changes the mind-set of some kids who think reading one book over the summer is enough.
A Summer Reading Symbaloo
We’ll spend a few days building a Summer Reading Symbaloo together. The Symbaloo will be a site that students can visit to help themselves find books and resources. We’ll start by adding “Authors We Love” to one section of the Symbaloo. We’ll definitely include authors of all the read-alouds we’ve shared this year. Then we’ll add others that students recommend. The Symbaloo will link students to author websites, and I’ll do a quick minilesson reviewing ways to navigate author sites to find books.
We’ll also add some online reading sites to the Symbaloo. Kids are familiar with sites such as Wonderopolis, DogoNews, and Pebble Go. Most of these sites will add new content over the summer, so some kids might choose online reading to be part of their summer days.
Later in the week, we’ll add other sources for online reading. I want my students to have places to go to learn about books we haven’t talked about. We’ll add the site for our local library as well as sites like Kidsreads, DOGObooks, and Mr. Schu’s Watch. Connect. Read. The combination of book reviews and book trailers should give them lots of choices for browsing new books.
I keep a book release calendar where I keep track of books that will be released soon. I also visit Mr. Schu’s Book Release Calendar often, as he tends to know more book release dates than I do. I’ll let my kids know of some of the books coming out this summer by some of their favorite authors. They can add these (with release dates) to their notebooks if they are interested. I’ve also held off on sharing lots of the newer books that have been released this spring. My students are overwhelmed with all they want to read right now, and I don’t want them to rush through to get to the new books. So, I plan to share some spring releases that we haven’t talked about yet.
I’d like each child to go home with a book or two. I always buy them a book as an end-of-the-year present from the book clubs, so I know they’ll each go home with one book. This year we are also hosting a book swap so students might go home with a few more new-to-them books. During those last few days of school, we’ll ask students to bring in a book or two that they are finished with, books they’d like to swap for something else. Then kids can choose books to take home from what we collect. Going home with new books is always a great motivator to start the summer off reading!
Years ago, my oldest daughter collected all of her Time for Kids magazines in a binder. Each week when she’d bring one home, she’d add it to her binder. She revisited these magazines often over the years, and I immediately started having my kids collect their news magazines in binders. Each student will have a binder of news magazines to take home, and we’ll talk about revisiting magazines—getting to those articles you never had time to read—as a fun piece of summer reading.
I want my students to create their own book recommendations for next year’s third graders. Doing this will force them to think back on their whole year as readers and recommend books they may have forgotten about. Each student will create a ThingLinks with links to book trailers, author websites, and more (thanks to Maria Caplin for this idea). I’ll print these out with QR codes for my incoming students this fall. We’ll post this on a webpage that current students can access over the summer to remember the books their classmates recommend. I love that this piece of the summer reading plan will serve two purposes.
We may want our students to read over the summer so that they don’t “lose ground.” We want them to stay “on level.” As much as I want that for my students, I want much more for their summer reading. I’m hoping that with these lessons, my students begin to see summer reading as a gift instead of a chore or a school assignment. They will have a lifetime of summers, and my hope is that some of these ideas I suggest take hold and become part of their lifelong habits for summer reading.