The Summer Reading Challenge

Oh, Summer Reading Programs… I loathe you.

Let me explain.

This time of year as many schools are wrapping up their final days (ending in May is crazy to me) I see all over social media, “What are your assigned summer reads?” “What program do you use to make sure students are reading over the summer?” and a simple search on Teachers Pay Teachers yields 20, 619 items under “Summer Reading” For example you can pay one easy payment of 89.99 to receive 400+ “original and fun” comprehension passages to avoid the “summer slide”.  Maybe you want a summer reading challenge with accompanying log? I bet you I know who doesn’t, your students.

It is summer, assigning teenagers reading homework because you can’t fit reading a text and discussing it in your already busy year so kids have to fit it into their summer sounds like more of a time management problem than a reading problem. I can’t help but wonder if these same teachers assigning at minimum one book but usually more would appreciate their Principal or Division assigning reading to do over the summer? I highly doubt it. I wonder if those same teachers like having what they read dictated to them? I know I don’t. I also know that as a student I would laugh out loud if a teacher assigned me homework over the summer.

The summer is meant for enjoying yourself, for recharging the batteries that are running low for students and teacher alike as we approach the end of the year. Please do not get me started on the whole “we shouldn’t be counting down, it makes the kids sad” business. My students love the countdown, it isn’t a celebration of being down with them it is a celebration of what they have done. Taking that celebration and saying,, “Oh but you must also do this…” or “You need to read these assigned things because I have not taught you well enough or trust that you will read a bit on your own during your well-earned break”, only tells them that they have not yet, in a year, done enough.

So how do we help students avoid that summer slide and not assign some challenge, program or log to be returned on day one?

  1. Model your summer reading plans. Let students know what you plan to read, show them how they can keep track of your reading with a blog or following you on Twitter. Put your money where your mouth is. I currently have 2-3 professional books and 5 and growing “for fun” books in the TBR. I am saving them for summer. I love to sit out and read in the sun with my coconut tanning oil nearby.
  2. Make sure your students have access. A library card, send them home with books, or as I am planning, let them know a day a week or every two weeks that you will be at the school. I plan to let my students know when I will be there so that they can pop in if they need some summer reading material. If they follow my blog or twitter they will be coming in to see what I am reading and if I finished it yet. An hour out of the week to book talk is nothing if it gets books in a few more students hands.
  3. Choice. You want kids to read over the summer? Let them choose what they want to read. I spent the summer reading comics books as a kid, I spend summers reading comics now. If we are telling students what to read it becomes a task if we are encouraging them to discover a new book, to discover themselves as readers we are showing them we trust them. We are telling our students that reading is important but so is the choice in how they spend their time because it is their time.

I plan to ask my students to read over the summer. When they return I will ask them what they read and if they will share with their peers but that is where my “program” will end.

An invitation to discover new books and share with their peers.

Sounds a lot better than 89.99 for 400+ “fun” comprehension entries and a reading log…


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