I am passionate about summer reading. I think it's essential in helping our students retain their motivation and love of reading but also to help maintain good reading habits. There is a tremendous amount of research out there that supports and encourages summer academic work in order to prevent the 'summer slide' and to help our students stay on track. Summer reading should be about motivating our children to read and that means providing free choice and making reading a part of our everyday conversation. It should be a school wide initiative in which all students can participate. When I came to my present school, there was not a summer reading program established. Man, did that hurt my poor book-loving soul. I pushed hard to make sure I could start a program this past summer. Luckily, I have an admin team that understands the value in reading. In the past with my middle schoolers, I've had a Google Classroom class (like 2017 Summer Reading) setup with a code accessible to all the students in the school so that we can post and discuss what we are reading over the summer in a low threatening environment as well as posting through our library Instagram with 'shelfies.' However, with 2nd and 3rd grade, I've had to change my approach. This year, I started with a brochure of ideas for books to read and fun ways to read. Our leadership team also posted pictures of us reading over the summer on our vacations and summer days to our school's Facebook page. Establishing good reading habits also means modeling for our students-not just reading out loud during the school day but showing that reading is a part of our everyday life. That it does not stop just because school is out.
My summer reading challenge was to read 100 minutes over the summer. I wanted to make it small enough to help our students feel like they accomplished something and also so that we can build some traction for our summer reading program. The more students that complete the first year will help effect how many will participate the next summer. On the brochure I made sure to include fun ways to read so it could be a family event (and also help some of our parents who need more guidance in what to do with our readers). I did include reading suggestions based on Lexiles, but that was primarily for our school improvement plan. I do not think independent reading should be contingent on reading levels. It should be about free choice. When children can freely choose what they want to read, they will be reading for pleasure, not because there is an assignment due. A choice allows children to be enthusiastic about what they are reading, and in turn they will be engaged. However, parents always request guidance in helping their children choose books and consistently asked for suggestions on Lexiles throughout the school year. So I try to include a balance of reading suggestions. I was able to present at our last PTSO meeting of the year on summer reading as well, which helped in advocating for summer reading. Check out the pictures below for a glimpse of what our summer of reading looked like!
For middle school though, I always based my reading suggestions on our genres. Yes, a lot of trees were killed in the making of this packet, but with parents of middle schoolers, you need to remind them to stay involved, provide ideas on how to stay involved, and provide as much guidance as possible in helping their children find books they may be interested in reading. Not because they don't understand their children, but because let's be honest about our tweens, they are picky (but it's really because they are going through that whole identity crisis thing so it's understandable). I think if I were to do this again, I would definitely utilize Remind or something similar to share this with more parents. I genuinely love meeting with parents to discuss how we can help our children become better readers. Family nights are great for this!
We had about 30 students complete the summer reading packet, which is about 4% of our school population. While I really want to hold my head down in shame at this abysmal turn out, I refuse to be defeated! That is 30 students who completed a huge accomplishment. This was our first year in trying a summer reading program. I also take heart in that many of our students probably still read over the summer, but they did not keep track of it on their summer reading brochure. Part of this turn out, I believe, may be because of the transient population we have between schools (our school only houses 2nd and 3rd grade so many of our rising 2nd grader families may not have been invested like our rising 3rd grade families) and military moves. So what to do? I was originally just going to hand out certificates of awesomeness during homeroom with their prizes, brand new books thanks to generous donations from our book fair and a local pottery place (Midnight Star Pottery is an amazing supporter of our school system), but with only 30 participants I said it's time to go big or go home. The bigger an event I make this, the more the impact would be on other students. There is some discussion about this as I questioned my decision to make it a big deal...I could potentially alienate other students by only inviting certain students to the reward party (especially those who had actually read over the summer but did not complete the summer reading packet), but it could also motivate other students who did not read over the summer because they want to go to the party. Thoughts from the Great Brain out there? I think I made the right call. Seeing how awesome the party was, maybe more students will want to participate next year.
At the end of the day, it felt wonderful to be able to reward our super readers. They had a fantastic time! I definitely want to do it again. Goals for next year-double our participants!
Side note on the theme of the reading celebration-During our library orientation, I emphasize every year how I think we are all superheroes. Superheroes are so awesome because most of them have started out just like you and me until somehow they encountered something that made them realize how special they are or something happened to them to develop their powers (but even then, a lot of superhero lore says those powers were dormant until the 'event' so...) to help the world become a better place. I make a point to talk about Iron Man (and if you don't know who that is you have been hiding under a rock and we have a lot to talk about) because he doesn't have any 'real' superpowers. He uses his brain and problem solving skills to help other people. Then we talk about how reading takes you places, helps you learn about yourself, helps you learn about the world around you so you can learn about what makes you special and so you can appreciate everyone's uniqueness. I usually tie this into a book (this year's was How to be a Hero).
Anyway, is it really a surprise I did a superhero themed summer reading celebration? Who doesn't love a good superhero themed party?!