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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

What did you do to get your students into summer reading?

What did you do to get your students into summer reading?

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So my first and second grade students set reading goals for the year in September. They pick a book they would like to be reading by June. We then do some additional intermediate goal setting throughout the year. Each month students track their minutes read outside of school and we do some basic data crunching in math class. We then do some reflective work on the student's effort into becoming better readers. We try to tie in the amount their reading at home to their progress in fluency.

Then in June we take a picture of them reading a book (if they met their goal, it is the book they chose for their goal.) I then use that picture in a summer reading document to send home explaining how they set a goal and met it. On that document I also have students list books, series of books, and topics they would like to read or learn about that summer.

What did you do to try and engage your students with summer reading?

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John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct faculty Antioch University New England

That site is very cool. Are you able to see when kids use it? What response do you have with it during the summer? Is it just kids who typically would be reading, or are some kids doing it during the summer who typically would not be reading? I wonder if there is a way to tag books as goals on the site? Some of my first graders would have difficulty navigating and reading the text on the site, but I'm sure with guidance and parental support it could work even down that low.

I thought next June I might hold some sort of school wide book exchange where families can send in used books and kids could take a bag full home for the summer. I also thought of making an annual end of year field trip to the town library (which is WAY under utilized) and each kid gets a library card if they don't have one and takes home a book bag full of books for the first few weeks of summer....then they would have to return the book and ideally check out more. Maybe even make our own summer canvas library book bags to put them in the first time.

Brian Sztabnik's picture
Brian Sztabnik
AP Literature teacher from Miller Place, NY


I believe it is important to convey to students why summer reading is important. I do this on two levels:

1. I share my love of reading and use the words of Jorge Luis Borges when he said, "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library."

2. I explain the concept of summer slide because students need to be aware of what happens when they don't read for three months. For example, a report from the National Summer Learning Association says that "A conservative estimate of lost instructional time for students that don't read is approximately two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year."

Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Editor & writer on teaching, learning, & education

Hi John, I teach college students, so the motivation for reading is a little bit different. However, I still try to emphasize the importance of reading. Many of them have a hard time focusing on the text while reading or finishing the reading in general. I try to encourage them by using the metaphor of our mind as a muscle that needs to be worked out. This muscle, when strengthened and properly trained, can be so powerful and impactful in the area of critical thinking. I try to emphasize that it only happens when one reads and expands their thoughts by exposing themselves to new material. This metaphor often actually works and I hear back from several students that they are encouraged to read more.

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct faculty Antioch University New England

Brian, I agree being direct with students can be effective, I should be more so with the summer reading bit. Rusul, the muscle metaphor is perfect. I'm glad you've both seen positive results with your students using these strategies.

Carole Alalouf's picture

John, I love the holistic approach you are taking to get kids reading, and the way you have incorporated goal setting, art and even math! Fantastic stuff.

I run a site called Reading Rewards (www.reading-rewards.com), which is an online reading log and reading incentive program that encourages kids to read. (You might want to take a look. It does just what you I believe you are looking for.)

We've just launched a ton of new features, including more sophisticated reporting for parents. I think your summer reading document sounds very comprehensive and could inspire some new ideas for us. I would love a glimpse of it.... Only if you are open to sharing it, of course! :-)

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