As the end of the school year draws near, many teachers are thinking about ways to support summer reading. We know that reading over the summer is important for all students, and we want that reading to be meaningful. We asked some of our Choice Literacy contributors for their favorite ideas for supporting summer reading with their students.
Julie Johnson, a third-grade teacher in Hilliard, Ohio, wants her students to experience summer reading in the same ways that she does:
Summer brings visions of idyllic hours spent on my patio, on the beach, or under a tree being able to read whatever I want, whenever I want. I always look forward to the summer for that reason. My time is more flexible, my schedule is a little freer, and I find more opportunities that lend themselves to recreational reading. I want my students to enjoy those same opportunities. How do we plan for that?
We do what readers do. We already have a culture in our classroom where reading is honored and valued. We talk about what we are reading, we share new titles, and we sometimes borrow books from friends. Before summer break, we create a summer reading plan together. Everyone (including me) brings in his or her favorite titles, magazines, and even websites. We do brief book talks, and I compile a list of reading ideas that goes home with each student. I make sure to add the child’s name who recommended the book. I find it helps in later conversations that kids have about the books they read. In addition, I keep their Kidblog accounts open so that they can share what they are reading and recommend books to their friends via their blogs. Since a third of my class is in our school’s parent/child book club, I’m going to host a summer book club in June and July for those who want to gather. We’ll have a little picnic outside and talk about some good books.
Before we leave for summer break, each child sets a reading goal. I help them set something reasonable, because we all know how busy summer can get with vacations, swim lessons, and sports. Whoever meets that goal is invited to a celebration at the beginning of the new school year. At our celebration, we get together, have some snacks, and talk about what we read. I’ll even create a new list of must-reads for the kids.
I want summer reading to be authentic and enjoyable for my kids. I want them to make choices that are good for them and will keep them reading all summer long. I’ll show them my stash of reading materials that I have with me all the time . . . sometimes it’s a magazine or a book, sometimes it’s my Kindle or my smart phone. I always have some kind of reading material with me for those times when I have a free minute or two. If they can get into that habit, it will make it much easier for them to successfully meet their goals. It’s like laying your exercise clothes out before you go to bed . . . if they are there when you wake up, you are much more likely to get up in the morning and do your workout. Arming kids with the tools they need makes all the difference in continuing their reading lives in the summer.
Who doesn’t like a celebration? Fourth-grade teacher Colby Sharp from Battle Creek, Michigan, finds parties are a terrific way to support summer reading:
I’m all about summer reading parties. This summer I will host an Origami Yoda party the day the third book in the series by Tom Angleberger is released. I will invite my incoming class and my last two classes to the party. The party will happen in late August, so students will be able to share their reading from the summer. My favorite part of my summer reading parties is that they give my incoming class a taste of what to expect when they get to my classroom. It’s tons of fun!
Donalyn Miller, a sixth-grade teacher in Bedford, Texas, has developed many ways to support students’ summer reading. Here are some of her ideas:
Discussing books students might read over the summer sends a message that you expect them to read and gives students titles to consider. Provide lots of opportunities for students to recommend books:
1. Hang recommendations on the walls in the hallways and in the library.
2. Present book commercials over the announcements and in school newsletters.
3. ProvideÂ student-created lists or podcasts on the school web site.
Encourage children to make lists of at least four or five books they would like to read over the break. Explicitly setting the goal to read at least a few books sends students off for the summer with a reading plan and some specific titles they have self-selected to read.
First-grade teacher Cathy Mere of Hillard, Ohio has several ideas to encourage her first graders to read over the summer. She writes:
It is hard to believe we are so near the end of the year. As the year ends I like to think about pieces of learning that have been important to our learning community. This year’s group has enjoyed blogging and collecting ideas in their writer’s notebooks. In addition to having students get the room ready for a new group of readers and writers by making character posters, writing book recommendations, and sharing first-grade tips, I have plans for preparing them for summer. My hope is to keep them reading and writing throughout their time away from school. I also want to keep them connected with one another.
Since students can access their Kidblog.org accounts from home, there will be a common day each week in which students can write to tell us about a book they are reading others might enjoy. If you are on Twitter, this is very similar to the “It’s Monday What Are You Reading” posts shared throughout the community. Students can comment quickly on my post with a title, or they can write their own posts about new book discoveries. I think the common day for posting will encourage students to stop by to share, read and comment.
We’ve also done quite a bit of writing in our writer’s notebooks this year. During the school year we use plain composition notebooks. Students will decorate a writer’s notebook with pictures, stickers, and other items at the end of the year party for the summer. Then in August when we return, I’ll schedule a day for us to get together to share the snippets we collected over the summer.
Karen Terlecky, a fifth-grade teacher in Dublin, Ohio, has lots planned for getting her students ready for summer reading:
Every year, I want my fifth-grade students to do more in the summer than just read the required list from the middle school. So, I pay attention to what smart colleagues are doing with their students, and I try to incorporate some of their ideas into our classroom as we look ahead to the summer.
In addition to borrowing good ideas from others, we will also be spending our last week together doing quite a bit of reflection about past, present, and future reading. Students will give book commercials about books they really love, and at the same time, gather titles from these commercials that sound good to them. I will also be sharing with my students new titles that they might be interested in reading. I want them to leave for the summer with a plan for what books they will read.
And finally, I will have our KidBlog available for them all summer. The entire year, we’ve shared our thinking about all the books in our reading lives on KidBlog, and also used the blog to share our thinking in book clubs across two classrooms. It just makes sense to continue those conversations for anyone interested. It will give us an opportunity to continue to participate in our reading community. I will respond to their posts, especially when they’re looking for a suggestion of a title, but it’s been my experience that they appreciate recommendations from their friends far more than the ones from me. I can’t wait to see how our conversations continue into the summer!
Beth Lawson shares an idea that worked for her second-grade team last year in Portland, Oregon. She explains:
A few years back I was on a grade-level team where all of the teachers were “looping down” to second grade, after having worked comfortably with the same group of students for two years as second and third graders. Needless to say, we were excited about welcoming a new group of students, but also a bit nervous, as we knew what a critical year second grade was for developing readers. To introduce ourselves to our new group we collaborated with the first-grade teachers, reserved the gym, and held a “you’re almost in second grade” assembly a few weeks before school ended for the summer. We met with the soon-to-be-second-graders, shared a little bit about ourselves, and then spent a large chunk of time pumping up the idea of summer reading and writing. Each student received a Ziploc bag with copies of our local library’s reading list suggestions, new pencils, a journal, and calendars to document all of the great titles they were reading throughout the summer. Included in the bag was an invitation to a second grade root beer float celebration at our school playground the week prior to school starting. Students and families were encouraged to bring their reading calendars and notebooks to celebrate the beginning of a new school year, a new classroom community, and a continued love of reading and writing. The event was simple and low-key, but also a huge motivator for the students. Most of the children came skipping over to the playground on that August evening, plastic bag in hand, eager to share what they had worked on and hang out with their new teacher and classmates. In reflecting upon that experience I realize the power of including the students in school year preparation, even months before the year begins. As a grade-level team, we sent a clear message to those young students: their participation in the school year was critical to our collective success.