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Summer Reading 2021

As the days get warmer, my third graders and I are celebrating a year of books read and stories shared. My colleagues and I are thinking about how to support readers in carrying their reading momentum through the summer and beyond. In today’s post, I’ll share some ideas for supporting summer reading. If you have any ideas you’d like to share, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Continuing Book Access

Inspired by the work of Tatum (2008) on textual lineages, my students have been thinking about the books that have impacted them as readers and as people. Students have also been reflecting on memorable reading experiences they’ve had. When making “reading timelines” of our lives last week, one student wrote “Age 5: My kindergarten teacher gave me books for the summer.” ❤️ The work we do to get books in the hands of readers is memorable! Some ideas for continuing access to books include:

  • Connecting with Local Libraries: Partnerships between schools and libraries can strengthen book access for the whole community. Public library staff may be able to support students in getting library cards before the summer begins so they can access titles. If your public library has a bookmobile or offers pop-up library sites in your community, see if there is a map or schedule you can share with families. (Also, see if your library can go fine-free on children’s books during the summer – or year-round! My fourth graders successfully advocated for this policy at our local library a few summers ago.)
  • Book Distribution Events: Stacey Riedmiller of Literacy for Big Kids has blogged about her school’s Books on Blankets initiative, where teachers distributed free books and conducted read alouds each week on the school grounds during summer break. Her post also includes many other suggestions for supporting summer reading, especially in the upper elementary grades.

Making Plans

Summer can fly by, so any work we can do to help students plan for reading can pay off.

  • Modeling Our Own Plans: Talking with students about how we are making reading a part of our own summer plans helps them recognize that reading can be a part of their lives outside of school, too. I share with students some of the titles on my summer TBR list. I participate in the Book Love Foundation Summer Book Club each summer, so I also tell students about my plans to be part of a reading community.
  • Supporting Students: We can give students a calendar of the summer months so that they can start to think about how their reading goals fit in with any summer fun they have planned. When students are planning for their own summer reading, they can also consider the following questions:
    • Where am I going to read?
    • When in the day or week will I make time for reading?
    • What do I want to read?
    • Who can I talk to about my reading?

Celebrating Stories Shared

While we look forward to summer reading, we can also look back on a year spent as part of a classroom reading community.

  • Sharing Book Recommendations: Making a “Best Books of Third Grade” shelf or basket in the classroom library can give students more opportunities to book talk and add books to their TBR list before leaving for summer break. (This shelf can be brought back at the start of the next school year so the outgoing students can leave recommendations for students new to grade three!)
  • Remembering Read Alouds: I still remember the titles of the books my elementary school teachers read to me. To send students off carrying these stories in their hearts, some of my colleagues have made laminated bookmarks for their students that show the covers of books read together during the year.

Quick Ideas

  • Kids often have the best ideas! If you ask students what they think about what would motivate them to continue reading over the summer, they often have great suggestions. A few years ago, my fourth-graders brainstormed some ideas that could work across the elementary grades.
  • In this new age of technology, we may be able to stay connected with students over the summer to provide reading experiences. Maybe before leaving for the summer break, a school’s teachers could each record themselves reading one chapter of a read-aloud book (with copyright clearance). Schools could use communication channels to release one chapter a day to students. This could also work for sharing book talks from different teachers throughout the summer. 
  • Technology can also connect students as readers over the summer. Flipgrid, Padlet, and Google Classroom are all options for students to share about their reading lives over the course of the break.
  • Looking ahead to next year, we can consider how we might value our new students’ reading identities from day 1. If you send out a survey to children before the school year starts, consider asking them if they have a favorite book that they’ve read or that has been read to them. Then, turn the books into door tags or decorations so students are reminded of a positive reading experience from day 1.

A few years back, a student gifted me this beautiful bracelet with pictures of many chapter book read-alouds we had shared that year. Each year, the bracelet reminds me of the magic of reading, and the opportunity we have to support readers in cultivating strong reading lives. ❤️ 📚 Wishing you and your students a summer filled with good books!

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