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April 25, 2012 Five Ways to Celebrate Summer Reading By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    “No more pencils, no more books …” Ugh, that childhood rhyme makes my skin crawl. While I won’t miss my noisy, graphite-spewing pencil sharpener, a summer without books sounds so bleak! So, although there are piles of statistics* available about “summer slide” and the dire academic fates awaiting students who don’t read over the summer, I choose to focus on the positive aspects of summer reading with my students.

    We read because we love it, and we read even more during the summer because our relaxed schedules allow more time for reading. Put this way, abundant summer reading is the perfectly logical extension to the reading culture we’ve created in our classes throughout the school year. In fact, last year one of my students smugly announced to the class that he now understood why we have a summer vacation – “Clearly it’s to read all the books we didn’t have time for during school – and to go to the beach!”

    * Thirsting after some of those scary “summer slide” statistics? Check out this informative article by the International Reading Association (and stop by the Scholastic booth to download the Storia app if you're at this year's IRA conference) as well as the video clips and research reports in Reading Rockets’ “Adventures in Summer Learning” archive.


    Tip 1: One Last Read-Aloud “Just-for-Fun!”

    A few weeks before school ends, I like to choose a “juicy” chapter book to read aloud to my class. During the rest of the school year, my reading lessons focus on applying strategies and skills. Usually I read aloud to explicitly model the strategies I use as a proficient reader. I think aloud and encourage my students to interact with the text in this scaffolded environment.

    Now it’s time to model something altogether different. For this final chapter book read-aloud, I model my total, unfettered pleasure in reading. I get lost in the book with my students. I share my excitement, my daydreams about the characters, and my intrinsic commitment to reading.

    I read a bit longer each day, building a sense of urgency and celebrating my students' reading and listening stamina. I also spur my students to read for longer periods of time each day, as we get ready for the luxury of limitless reading time during summer vacation. The pace in the class becomes more indulgent, we bask in the pleasures of reading, and my students fill out these “reading wish lists” to plan for their summer reading.

    If you’re wondering about my favorite parting read-aloud, I usually choose Roald Dahl’s The Witches. It’s a joyful, for-the-love-of-reading pick, and I aspire for an Oscar as I read the Grand High Witch’s monologues. What’s your favorite last-read-aloud? Please share your suggestions with all of us!

    Independent reading takes on a relaxed, beachy feel during the last steamy days of school.


    Tip 2: A Special Parting Gift

    Looking for an inexpensive souvenir to give my class at the end of the year, I decided on a DIY project. I made each of my students a commemorative bookmark with all of the students’ names. I used the free word-cloud website Tagxedo to create a custom word cloud in a rectangular shape. After I typed in all of the students’ names and other key words to remember our school year, I customized the design by changing the fonts and colors for each student.

    I printed the word cloud bookmarks onto cardstock and then laminated them. Finally, I punched a hole, threaded a ribbon through the top, and wrote a personal message on the back of each bookmark. My hope was that each child would feel connected to our reading community all summer long!

    I use Taxedo to make customized bookmarks for each student. 


    Tip 3: Visit the Library

    I plan a visit to the local branch of the public library a few weeks before the end of school. I want to show my students that they have access to this wonderful mecca of books all summer long (as well as an air-conditioned haven!)

    I visit the library ahead of time to set up the visit with the children’s librarian and to pick up library card applications. Then I send the applications home with my students with an explanatory letter, I collect them back, and drop the completed applications off to the library prior to the visit. Then, when we visit, the librarian has the children's library cards waiting for them, which is so exciting.

    Students whose parents sign a permission slip are allowed to borrow a book with their new library card. I send home this letter after the trip so their families know about returning the kids' books to the library on time.


    Tip 4: Join Scholastic’s Summer Reading Challenge!

    Scholastic takes summer reading very seriously, and they have created a grand platform for our students to stay connected to books all summer long. Now in its fifth year, students track the minutes they spend reading as they read for the World Record. The twenty schools with the most minutes logged will receive recognition in the 2012 Scholastic Book of World Records.

    Students also earn digital rewards (badges, e-books, and audiobook downloads,) as they reach their summer reading goals. Register your class for the Summer Reading Challenge now.


    Tip 5: Connect With Your Summer Reading Community                    

    I want my students to know that they aren’t on their own as readers over the summer. I organize optional meet-ups at the public library once or twice during the summer. I invite all of my students and their families to meet me in the children’s room at the library. My students love touching base with their friends, sharing book recommendations, and buddy reading together. I confer with each student to check up on his or her reading and to help him or her pick some new books for the coming weeks. I also read aloud a picture book, a nostalgic reminder of our good times reading together the previous year.

    Last year, I created a virtual class bookshelf by embedding the Shelfari applet on my class website. Students submitted the titles of books that they read at home during the summer, and I added their recommendations to our virtual bookshelf. This summer I plan on creating a class book review blog so that my students can independently post their book recommendations and comment on their friends’ recommendations.


    Extra Tips for Summer Reading Goodness

    I avoid prescriptive reading lists for the summer vacation because my students and I both know that one-size-fits-all never works for books. However, some parents appreciate book recommendations, so I post this list of recommended books on my class website. Here is Scholastic’s summer book lists for 8 to 10 year olds and 10 to 12 year olds.

    Print out this Parent & Child magazine article for your students’ families with suggestions about what they can do to help support their children’s literacy skills over the summer.

    Beth Newingham, one of my digital-mentors, wrote an inspiring blog post with her suggestions for wrapping up your reading workshop in meaningful ways.

    Also be sure to check out Scholastic’s “Everything You Need for Summer Reading” collection for dozens more tips, book lists, and activities.


    Summer Reading: What Do You Do?

    Please use the comments section below to share your class traditions for inspiring your students to read all summer long. What do you use for your last read-aloud? Do you leave your students with a special parting gift? Do you assign summer reading homework, or is reading “just for fun”? 


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Susan Cheyney