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  • Karen Finnerty

Summer Reading

We all have THAT book. The book that you couldn’t get enough of. That one book that when it ended, you were at a loss for what to do next. The book that may have even made you a pleasure reader for life. For me, it was discovering the novel Molokai by Alan Brennert. For my sister it was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. With school almost out for summer, now is the time to stack the deck in favor of helping students find their transformative summer read. Let’s spend these last weeks of school parading great choices in front of students, and more importantly, giving them opportunities to generate their own wish lists. Following are a few ideas for seeding a July and August full of fun-loving, enjoyable reading.

Begin Rad Reading Lists

Invite students to create their own summer reading lists, so that it’s 99.9% books they want to read. They own it the list-building process, but you are doing quite a bit behind the scenes to support them. By devoting time each week between now and year’s end, you dial down the stress and increase the chances that parents and caregivers can help get these books from the library or store. Here are a few tips for frontloading terrific choices for a summer of reading:

Host and Post

Provide time for students to discuss the books they have read and loved most this year. You might set up a few director’s chairs ala a talk show set, and have partners or small groups prepare a brief show of some kind. Students might be book critics, persuading classmates about their favorites or have fun prepping and presenting illustrated “Must Read” charts that can then inspire peers’ summer wish lists. Post these charts in hallways, have the principal host a video presentation for the school. And remember, Richard Allington, the foremost researcher on independent reading, has proven time and time again that it doesn’t matter what books children choose to read, it just matters that they read.

Make the Library Familiar Turf

Across the year, many students have become experts in choosing books from our classroom libraries. They know where every book is and they have plenty of opportunities to browse and choose. Yet for many other children, the school or public library can be an overwhelming experience. Honestly, we don’t do enough to ensure students know how to navigate this sacred space, and feel at home there. Plan time to visit the school library. Allow students to browse topics, themes, and authors. Have them jot down titles they may want to add to their wish lists. If you have the ability, try to plan a field trip to the public library, even better, because if students are familiar with the layout of the building, and where they can find the kinds of books they love, there is stronger likelihood they will go their own their own. If a field trip is out of reach, host a workshop on how to use the online public library system.

Browse The Best Online Book Sites

For middle school and high school students, plan time for them to browse online resources that might provide recommendations of new titles. Show them how to read up on book reviews and summaries and to make decisions about the books that appeal to their interests. There are many sites that provide recommendations but here are a few of my favorites for our older readers:

  • NY Times Best Sellers

  • Barnes and Noble

  • Epic Reads

  • Nerdy Book Club

  • We Need Diverse Books

Make The Lists Special

Tap into students’ artist/aesthetic sensibilities by providing time for the lists to get typed up in favorite fonts, glamorized, and then have a rendezvous with a laminating machine. We want summer reading—and books—to have a permanent, beautiful place in students’ lives, so send that message by inviting learners to get crafty. Go wild at Staples or Target and bring in colorful markers, lettering, plastic sheet protectors, and the like. Treat these lists as the valuable item that they are.

Cheers to the end of the school year and a relaxing summer full of reading!

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