As a teacher and a parent, I have seen many different versions of summer reading. I remember helping my three children fill out various reading logs for their school and then doing something completely different for the public library. If you do the math, I kept up with six summer reading logs. Summer reading became one more chore to be done. This was in direct opposition to the relaxing summer vibe I was trying to go for.
Collaborate with the Public Library
A few years ago, the school librarians, reading specialists, and public librarians joined forces and created one summer reading program for school and the public library. Each school librarian met with their individual local branch librarians and set up “Night at the Library” summer kick-off events. Librarians collaborated with their reading specialists and created a summer reading log designed for their school population. Students could take the log to the local branch of the public library to win prizes each week. At the end of the summer, students turned in their log to the school librarian.
Keep It Simple
One thing that parents, teachers, and librarians can all agree on is that summer reading should be simple. We want to inspire kids to read just for the sake of reading. Personally, I didn’t want to write a summary or create a craft after I finished reading The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn last week. Although I did take thirty seconds to write the title and author in my book log that I keep each year.
My students get a Summer Reading BINGO sheet. There is a list on the back of the sheet for them to do to earn a BINGO square. Each option is related to reading. For example: read a graphic novel, read a mystery, go to the Summer Reading Kick-Off, read to a stuffed animal, etc.
Rewards for Reading: Yes or No
There is a bit of controversy about whether or not prizes should be given as a reward for reading. The general consensus is that we are trying to create lifelong readers. When I pick up a book, I do it because I want to, not because I have the chance to win a free IPad. If you are familiar with Donalyn Miller’s book The Book Whisperer, you know that she is not a proponent of giving out rewards for reading. Check out her blog post about this topic here.
As a school librarian, I promote reading all year, and my goal is to create lifelong readers. I agree that students should be intrinsically motivated to read. That being said, there are students who won’t pick up a book unless they are forced to. I do offer prizes to students, but all of my prizes promote more reading.
Every student who completes their BINGO sheet gets a special book mark that allows them an extra book check-out during their library time. Students then get tickets to enter a raffle for themed book baskets. I use the profits of my spring Scholastic Book Fair to purchase enough books to create fourteen themed book baskets. This year, a few of my basket themes are dinosaurs, unicorns, Legos, and Harry Potter. My hope is that the students who were motivated by the prizes will discover the joy of reading along the way.
Opening the School Library during the Summer
For the past three years, I opened my school library four times during the summer. Students and families could check out books and hang out in the library for a couple of hours. Tables were set up with a variety of activities like rock painting, Legos, and origami. About twenty to thirty families attended each session.
This summer, I am offering three Story Time with the Book Fairy events at our open air classroom. I am dressing up as a fairy, reading a couple of stories, and handing out free books to the kids who attend.
Fun Is the Key
The key to a successful summer reading program is to just have fun with reading. If summer reading is a chore that you dread promoting, then simplify it for next year. Your students and parents will thank you.
Now, I’m off to the beach to enjoy some more summer reading.
Author: Colleen R. Lee
Colleen R. Lee is a former middle school English teacher and Elementary Teacher. She is currently the Elementary Librarian at Greenfield Elementary School in Chesterfield County, VA. Follow her on Twitter @MrsLeesLibrary.