I keep a reading log tracking the books I read each month. When I look at the log across the years, I notice that there are patterns to my reading. There are some months (September, especially) when I don’t get much reading done. There are other months (July especially) with so much reading. I accept the fact that I cannot expect myself to read the same number of books each month, and I look forward to the months that getting lost in a book seems easier.
I seem to save longer, more complex books for the down times in my life. I know if I am to read a book like The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver or The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, I need more time each day to read and be lost in the world of the book. So, I always keep a stack of books that I save for summer and vacation reading.
As a reading teacher, I want to prepare my students for these times in life that invite extra reading time and the ways in which these times impact their reading lives. I have learned that summer is the perfect time to learn to enjoy the extra time. I am opposed to “summer reading lists” and required summer reading. Students usually see summer reading as an assignment, and often put off the reading until the week before school starts. I have found that my upper elementary students and my own children respond more positively when they see summer as a great time to catch up on the reading they haven’t had time to get to during the school year.
There is so much we as teachers can do to support summer reading, and to help our students look forward to a summer with time built in for reading.
Things I Do to Invite Summer Reading
In mid-May, we usually do a class Book Share. Every student chooses a book that they don’t think many people in the class know much about — a book that they think others would enjoy. We go around in a circle and share books. Everyone comes with a pencil and paper, jotting down titles of books that they might want to look at in the future. I also encourage students to put down the name of the classmate who recommended a book they notice, so that they can ask more questions if they need to.
Every year, the librarian from the public library comes to share information about the Summer Reading Program. She always shares information about the program, prizes students can earn for reading, and new books at the library. Since I am not a big fan of prizes for reading, I always ask my students to carry sticky notes and pencils to jot down the new books that she shares. Our conversation when we return from the visit focuses on the books they saw that they might want to look for when they visit the library.
Students have a place in their reading notebooks for keeping track of books they want to read. I usually do a minilesson where students go back to this list to determine whether any of those books on their list would make good summer reading.
I invite students to make a written plan for their summer reading. Giving them time to think through the kinds of reading they hope to do is usually very effective in building interest in and enthusiasm for summer reading. I ask questions like:
Is there a series that you’ve started that you’d like to read more of?
Is there an author that you really like right now?
What type of books are you in the mood for?
Is there a book you’ve heard of from someone else that you’ve been wanting to read?
Is there a longer-than-usual book that you’ve been wanting to read when you had extra time?
Are you going on a long plane or car trip that will give you extra time to read?
Where do you think you’ll do most of your reading this summer?
Students can write responses to these questions, and then use them in our discussions. I’ve included a one-page template for summer reading planning by clicking here.
I share some books on tapes or some of the new Playaways we have gotten in our library, reminding students of the value of this type of reading for long car trips this summer. I list some of the books I’ve listened to on tape when I’ve driven long distances.
I encourage students to talk to others who like to read similar things, and to set up some times to chat about books they are reading over the summer. These informal social meetings often keep kids reading all summer long.
I usually do a minilesson with students titled Sharing My Own Plan for Summer Reading. I bring the stack of books I have been collecting to read, as well as book reviews or advertisements of books I’ve heard about that I want to read. I’ll also share Study Driven by Katie Wood Ray, a professional book I’ve read but want to reread this summer. I tell my students that I don’t hold myself to these books. Who knows? I may find something that moves to the top of my piles as I visit bookstores and libraries. But I do share my expectations of my reading life this summer. I expect to catch up a bit on books I have not been able to fit in during the school year.
Celebrating Summer Reading
Instead of giving stickers or candy to students who return in the fall with completed reading logs, I like to find ways to celebrate our summer reading as a school. Students aren’t sharing their logs to “prove” to me that they read. Instead they are sharing their reading because they know how powerful it is to talk to other readers.
Some years, I have created whole class or whole school boards to celebrate our summer reading. Sending home a page asking students to take a picture of themselves reading somewhere over the summer and to write a few sentences about their summer reading becomes a great bulletin board for the entrance of the school early in the year. It also starts conversations about books and reading right away when school begins:
What did you read this summer?
Where did you read this summer?
I usually write to my students once or twice during the summer months. I make sure to include information about my family, things I’ve been up to and the books I’ve been reading. After sharing a bit about my own reading, I then take some time to share new children’s books I’ve found that they might enjoy.
Summer Reading Plans
As teachers, most of us look forward to the summer, when we have more time to catch up on reading. We may be a bit more relaxed. For our students, summer offers similar opportunities. By treating summer reading as an opportunity instead of an assignment, we can help kids read more and build a habit of summer reading.