Every year libraries, newspapers, magazines, and bloggers put out lists of the BEST BEACH READS or SUMMER READING BESTS. There is something festive and exciting about summer reading. Why is that? Sometimes people admit that they choose different books in the summer. They confess to loving “trashy” books as a “guilty pleasure”.
Hey, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!!
Summer reading shouldn’t be judged as less than acceptable. It’s a time when people seem to read what they want to read. We reflect on our tastes and preferences. We look for recommendations from others. We often experiment with new books and genres. We associate books with the places we read them and special times in our lives. We contemplate our reading identities.
I want that for our students, too. Sadly many will not read over the summer for a variety of reasons. Many educators, libraries, and schools try to promote, incentivize, and encourage summer reading but ultimately we cannot create the conditions to make that a reality for all. We can’t be there with them to help make it happen. Or can we?
If we want our students to experience the joys of summer reading we can look for ways to create that experience in our classrooms (where we do exert influence). We can ask ourselves: what makes summer reading special?
- Enticing Book Lists of “Must Reads”
- “Free” time to read
- Choice in what we read
- Fun places to read
- Conversations about what we read
- Festive atmosphere for reading
That’s easy enough for most of us. We create many of these conditions in our classrooms already. But what if we just declared a Summer Reading Break a few times during the school year and bring that magic into our classrooms.
Announce an upcoming Summer Reading Break. Really play it up to generate the buzz and excitement many feel for real summer. In anticipation students could:
- Create summer reading lists/ ‘must reads‘ compiled by students.
- Create or collect book talks or book trailers to entice readers
- Get their TBRs (To Be Read) ready for the week
- Talk to librarians about book recommendations
- Plan a summer reading corner by bringing in beach blankets, umbrellas, towels, etc.
- Discuss their perceptions of ‘summer reading’ and how it could be good for them as readers.
Then for a week you could carve out 30 minutes a day to :
- Take a school “vacation” and simply read!
- Put on background sounds of surf, loon calls, bird songs, thunderstorms, etc.
- Project a summer video or scene onto a SmartBoard/whiteboard.
- Share some summer snacks.
- Provide kids time to talk about their reading/books.
- Write about/Blog/Tweet/Instagram their “summer” reading.
- Continually make references/connections to how this would look for them during their summer vacations.
- Reflect on our reading identities!
By the time real summer rolls around, these students will have some schema for summer reading that they may have never had before. They can associate summer reading with a pleasurable experience. We can continue the conversation about reading and books with our students via a class blog, google doc, email, social media (if students are old enough) during the summer. We could have a mid-summer ‘meet up’ (in person or virtually) to bring favorite books to talk about.
We can’t expect our students to take on new behaviors away from school that haven’t had scaffolding at school. For something to become a habit, it needs to have repetition and opportunity. If we want our students to be summer readers, they need opportunities to practice and experience that behavior! When your students come back from summer break this fall, think about who was a summer reader and who was not. Think about why that might be. Then think about how you can create a few summer reading breaks during the school year that address those conditions/issues. You might not see the bump during your teaching year, but…
We plant the seeds so that others may enjoy the shade.
What’s On My Book Radar?
Towers Falling is the 3rd book I have read this summer that deals with 9/11 and like Nora Raleigh Baskin’s nine, ten: a September 11 Story and Gae Polisner’s The Memory of Things, this book is a gem. On the 15th anniversary of the tragedy, Deja’s 5th grade teacher presents some lessons on the history of this date. Somehow Deja is the only student who has never heard of 9/11 and yet she will find she is the one student in her class who has a personal connection to that date. Jewell Parker Rhodes has created a story of friendship and compassion as she introduces us to Deja (a homeless girl) and her two friends Sabeen (a muslim girl) and Ben (a child of divorce) who band together to try to understand why recent history is important and relevant and how it can influence our lives today. I think this is an essential read for students who weren’t alive on that date and are trying to understand why it is so important for our nation (and perhaps their families’) history.