Summer Reading Inspiration
In the spring of 2016, I received an e-mail from a friend and English teacher in my building. She invited the entire faculty to contribute to a slideshow she was creating. She encouraged every faculty member to insert a slide that listed a book they’d read in the past year that they’d really liked and a book they were looking forward to reading in the upcoming summer. She wanted to share this slideshow with the students before they went on summer break.
The goal was two fold: First, it would provide students with suggestions for titles they might enjoy for summer reading. Second, it would let students see that some people actually CHOOSE to read over the summer!
The slideshow has grown into a smooth operation. Each slide includes several specific features. Each starts with the teacher’s name. The left half of the slide features a book the teacher enjoyed. The right half features a book the teacher hopes to read. On both halves: A cover image from Goodreads that links to the Goodreads review and a short blurb from the teacher.
Building a Culture of Reading
Every year since, I have eagerly awaited that day each spring when I’d get to share some titles! It is always a challenge to whittle my suggestions down to two slides (yes, I cheat!). But it’s a fun challenge that engages my reader’s mind. And the project itself always fills me with joy. I purposely save some class time to review the slides with students. And I’ve seen students go to other teachers (and to me) to discuss books.
This is precisely how a school can build a culture of reading: Creating an annual event. Getting buy-in from multiple disciplines. Showing students that there are lots of great books in the world. Proving students and faculty the chance to discuss books and reading free from curricular or assessment restraints.
Students are not the only ones who benefit from this book sharing. In addition to enjoying sharing my own favorites and items from my TBR list, I enjoy perusing these glimpses into the reading lives of my friends and colleagues. Although we all love to educate, we rarely find the time to discuss our own interests and passions. Seeing the books someone else recommends can provide interesting insights into their personalities.
I also find plenty of new titles to add to my TBR list! And I’ve had some amazing conversations about beloved (and loathed) authors and titles! This list has helped foster community among the staff, as well as with the students.
Now More Than Ever
This year, I feel this project is particularly needed. I added a slide at the beginning to remind students of digital literacy resources they can access. It includes links to school and community resources, like our MackinVIA subscription and the county library’s website. I also included a link to an extensive list I compiled that includes information about OverDrive, Libby, and some great authors’ channels on YouTube.
Besides the accessibility, I think this slideshow is important. Both adults and students have more time at home than ever. Some have used this time to dive deeply into reading. But others find themselves unable to muster the focus needed for sustained reading. Pointing students to titles they might enjoy may give them the push they need to get back into reading. Showing them they are part of a reading community can help them feel connected. And giving them topics and titles to discuss with their peers and their teachers can help them communicate, in a time when communication is sorely needed.
I also hope that students can find solace in some of the books teachers are touting.
I purposely chose titles I think offer students some humor and humanity. Here are my selections:
Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
Sal is new to this weird performance school, but figures he can use his skills with tricks to fit in. But even before school has started, Sal has managed to reveal his biggest secret. His only comfort: No one pays any attention – except the smartest girl in school, Gabi. And Sal has earned two enemies. That’s before he even breaks the universe! It’s going to be a long school year…
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez
Maria Louisa (but she goes by Malu) is forced to move to a new town just before 7th grade starts. All she wants is to listen to her punk music, make ‘zines, and be left alone. But her new classmates call her a “coconut” – Mexican on the outside, white on the inside. So Malu decides it’s time to unite her passion for punk and her Mexican heritage to bring something new and amazing to her new life!
Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee
Mila’s family may be struggling, but seventh grade is starting out well. Until some of the boys start acting weird around her. Mila doesn’t want the attention, but her friends don’t know how to help. Maybe it’s just flirting. But then why does it make Mila feel so bad inside? Mila is going to have to make some decisions about who she is, and who she wants to be.
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Phillipe
Norris was unusual when he was a black kid in Canada. Now he’s even more unusual as a black hockey-playing kid in Texas. When Aarti saves him from the cheerleading squad, things seem like they’re looking up. But to win Aarti, Norris makes a deal with one of the cheerleaders. But as Norris quickly learns, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
I know not every student is going to like every suggestion. And I know some of the titles are more advanced than others. But I want students to see that they don’t need to place restrictions on their reading. They can read far and wide. They can read all sorts of genres. They can find many different kinds of enjoyment from reading.
I also listed several titles I’m looking forward to this summer:
The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin
On a planet where massive tectonic shifts regularly destroy whole cities, a small group of enslaved people have the power to control the movements of the earth. But when they become discontent with being slaves, the world may not survive. Really enjoyed the first book, hoping to get the rest this summer!
Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore
Moore writes weird, humorous stories, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with some characters from Shakespeare’s work!
All sorts of books with OverDrive, via Monmouth County Library
OverDrive lets you find e-books and audiobooks you can borrow through Monmouth County Libraries, and lets you download them right to your device! Best of all, you can set format preferences, so I can borrow titles right to my Kindle!
I used my “Want to Read” area to remind students of a digital resource at their fingertips. I also wanted to reinforce the importance of the local library in their minds. When the libraries reopen and are safe again, I hope students will take full advantage of them!
Reading Beyond School
With this exceptionally weird school year wrapping up, it’s important to help students find reading that works for them. This project is my school’s attempt to help them do so. At the same time, it reaffirms our school’s commitment to raising lifelong learners. And it reminds both our students and our faculty of our culture of reading.
Author: Steve Tetreault
After 24 years as a classroom English Language Arts teacher, Steve became a school librarian in January 2022. He has earned an M.Ed. (2006) and an Ed.D. (2014) in Educational Administration and Supervision, and completed an M.I. degree in Library and Information Science (2019). He is certified as a teacher, school library media specialist, supervisor, and administrator. He is an old dog constantly learning new tricks!
Categories: Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models
After this piece went live, I realized I was remiss in naming Melissa Caliendo as the friend, colleague, and motivating force behind this project! Sorry about that, Melissa – coffee and donuts will be provided as reparations!
I love this! May I have permission to duplicate at my high school?
I really enjoyed learning about your idea! I am new to librarianship and will start my first year as a High School librarian next school year! I would love to do something similar at my school!
Debbie – You are more than welcome to run with this idea! We borrowed it ourselves. It’s a really enjoyable way to engage the faculty and students in a community of reading. We actually got some really great feedback this year from the students about how interesting they thought the teachers’ choices were. Many students were surprised to find they shared reading tastes with some of the their teachers. And there were quite a few who said they were looking forward to checking out some of the titles their teachers had mentioned. It’s a great way to build a school-wide love of learning!
Monica – I wish you all the best as you begin your librarianship journey! I can’t recommend enough doing something like this to build connections between students and staff. There are so many ways to implement this type of activity, both analog and digital (though with all of the remote learning happening, and the possibility of more in the future, I tend to lean digital these days!).
I will caution you to temper your expectations a bit – the first year, we pretty much only had English teachers share titles, but with some gentle cajoling, we soon expanded beyond the traditional “book loving” department. Personally, I’d rather see teachers from other disciplines getting their titles in – it helps students see that reading is not just an “ELA thing”!