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Launching Summer Reading

Reading research indicates that many children's reading ability declines between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next. My sixth graders can tell you why this happens; they don't usually read much over the summer. Children can offset this summer reading slump by reading as few as four or five books over the summer. I, of course, would love for kids to read more than this small number of books! The summer break is a marvelous time for readers, freed from the mandates of assigned school reading, to explore topics and books of their own interest. While it is challenging to require or monitor students' summer reading, here are some suggestions for launching a school-wide summer reading initiative that encourages more children to read during summer break.

Provide lots of opportunities for students to recommend books. Hang recommendations on the walls in the hallways and in the library. Present book commercials over the announcements and in school newsletters. Provide student-created lists or podcasts on the school web site. Discussing books students might read over the summer sends a message that you expect them to read and gives students titles to consider.

Encourage children to make lists of books they would like to read over the break. Explicitly setting the goal to read at least a few books sends students off for the summer with a reading plan and some specific titles they have self-selected to read.

Hold a book swap. Invite students to donate old books in exchange for a ticket. During the book swap, students may select another book for every ticket they hold. We have held a book swap for many years at my school on the last Saturday before school ends. Our teachers and the librarian cull personal and classroom collections, too, and often donate their tickets to kids who don't have books. If you have extra books at the end, find a local charity, hospital, or children's organization that could use the books.

Open the school library for a few days a week. Talking with my students, I discovered that their primary sources of books were the school and classroom libraries. When school closes for the summer, many students lose access to reading material. Consider opening your school library for a few hours two days a week. Invite parents and staff to volunteer for at least one shift over the summer and talk with your librarian about how to monitor the books over the break. We will open our school library for two hours one afternoon and two hours one morning every week for most of the summer.

Host a library card sign up event. Librarians are a wonderful resource for children who need book recommendations. Many libraries offer summer reading programs, author visits, and other events to entice children to read more over the summer. Invite librarians or volunteers from the local library to attend a PTA meeting or Open House and explain the library's summer programs. Encourage families to sign up for library cards.

Advise parents to set the expectations for their child to read every day. Reading for 20-30 minutes a day keeps students' vocabulary and reading ability growing during the summer and can be a wonderful activity for rainy days, household errand running, and long waits in the car or the airport.

Look for ways to include parents and children in your summer reading initiatives and you will have more buy-in and motivation to participate.

The fabulous folks at Choice Literacy have collected ideas that celebrate students' reading and promote reading over the summer in their Preparing Students for Summer Reading Roundup.

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