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5 Ways to Supercharge Summer Reading

Reading is the key to stopping the summer slide!! Is your summer reading program up for the task?
Spring Break is over. School is heating up. Kids {and teachers} are dreaming of the dog days of summer. But every educator out there knows that once those kids charge out the front doors of school, the summer slide is on! And we aren't talking about the yellow Slip & Slide of our childhood, folks.

The summer slide is real. Research has shown, time and again, that students who do not read in the summer WILL lose two to three months of reading development. {Allington} In order to maintain their academic footing, kids have to read. Period. They've got to use those skills, or they're going to lose them!

So, teachers and librarians everywhere, I challenge you to create a take home summer reading program that your students will WANT to participate in.

(1) Make it fun. Seriously ... 

You aren't trying to entice the kid who is a natural reader; they are reading in spite of you. Add a little spice to your reading program and hook your non reader {or, at the very least, make it less painful for them} by including FUN! Have your students read in different places, with different people, and in different ways.
  • Read in a fort made of blankets, under the kitchen table, in a tree, on a beach, in a swing, or by flashlight.
  • Read to a dog, a beloved stuffed animal, little kids, or older folks.
  • Read in a hat, in their pajamas, hanging upside down, curled up in a bean bag chair, or hiding under their blankets in bed.
  • Encourage the kids to take pictures of themselves reading and send them to you over the summer. Post them online to share. That's the good stuff!

(2) Think outside of the book ...

Words are EVERYWHERE!! Why limit your students' reading to those confined within the cover of a book? {Although those words are certainly my favorite.} Help parents to see that reading can happen all day, every day! Encourage them to sneak in reading with a variety of activities.
  • Read folktales, poems, joke books, picture books, and chapter books.
  • Read newspaper articles, magazines, comics, and the flyers that come in the mail.
  • Read cereal boxes, game instructions, recipes, movie listings, restaurant menus, road signs, and sports jerseys.
Every single word that a student reads over the summer is helping them to ward off the summer slide. Create a program that opens kids' eyes to the words all around them.

(3) Empower kids with choices ....

There isn't a human anywhere {even the littlest ones} who like to be told WHAT to do. And honestly, students have the choice NOT to participate in the summer. We can't follow them home and make sure that they are playing our silly little game. So, be sure that your reading program gives them the opportunity to choose WHAT they will do.
  • Give a wide variety of FUN and motivational activities. THEN, ask the kids to complete only a percentage of them.
  • Avoid the BINGO type of programs where students will only get credit if they do ALL the things in a certain row or on a certain card. Maybe a kid doesn't even have the opportunity to read by the beach!! That could discourage them from even trying the other activities.
  • Include several open ended options ... Ones that kids can easily adapt to their own environment. Consider adding a few free reading choices where a student can make up their own reading activity.

(4) Let them select their own books ...

Research has shown that those students who are able to choose their OWN books have a much better chance of keeping the summer slide at bay. {Key} Why? Kids need to read their books folks!! Simply sending home a booklist, or even a book, doesn't guarantee that anyone is reading. 
  • Before school is out, set up a display of books for the kids to peruse. Include the most popular books, some new books, some well-reviewed books, and books of all genres.
  • Distribute Scholastic book orders to kids and have them circle those books that most interest them.
  • Allow students time to engage with the displayed books. Give them the opportunity to record book titles that genuinely interest them.

(5) Challenge them ...

I know. I know. There is a whole battle going on out there about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation! I get it. Really. I do. But, I also know that SOME kids love a challenge.
  • Create an activity sheet where students can visually SEE all of the reading activities that they have successfully completed. Kids love to check things off and color things in.
  • Kids love competition, and they love to "win." Include a prize in your reading challenge; one for simply participating. What better reward than a brand new book? Prizes don't necessarily need to cost money either. What about a certificate of completion, a fun bookmark, a shout out on the announcements, or their name displayed with other awesome readers?
So, the gauntlet has been thrown. Teachers and librarians everywhere, are your ready to accept the challenge and supercharge your students' summer reading??