These days, books have a lot of competition for kids’ attention. Video games, cell phones, tablets, and social media sites all provide tantalizing sources of entertainment for kids of all ages during their off hours. As we move into the summer months, many kids will have a lot of hours to fill. As teachers, we have a lot of power to make sure that at least some of kids’ time this summer is taken up with reading.
Reading over the summer is particularly crucial for children from lower income families, as study after study has shown. Many of these children already suffer from vast achievement gaps that they can’t afford to widen. Some research estimates that children from middle income homes read three lines of print for every one line read by children from lower income homes. Children from lower income homes simply cannot afford to not read in the summer if they are to catch up.
Happily, research done by the National Summer Learning Association shows that reading even 4-6 books over the summer can help lower income children to prevent decline in reading achievement. Though we can’t remain by our students’ sides throughout the summer, we can angle our teaching to support summer reading so that we remain a voice in their ears, encouraging them to read.
Here are a few ways to make vacation reading accessible and perhaps even irresistible:
- Share summer reading programs sponsored by book stores and libraries. Many of these give prizes for kids who read a certain number of books, great for those students with a competitive spirit.
- For older children whose parents agree, use social media as an engagement tool. Encourage children to form reading clubs or partnerships, and set up Facebook groups or regular meet ups on Snapchat or Twitter as forums for them to discuss their reading.
- Take a class trip to the public library and make sure that all students have a library card.
- Give students time and support to curate summer reading lists based on authors, genres, and topics of interest. You might have students posts their lists so that they can study each others’ to get ideas.
- Set students up to be reading buddies for each other over the summer. Suggest they set dates and make plans for how they will check in with each other. They might send each other weekly texts, for example, asking what they are reading and how it’s going.
- Elicit parents’ support. One way to set parents up to be reading coaches for their children is by giving parents basic information about their children’s reading levels. This might include giving parents lists of books appropriate for their child’s level and some prompts or questions they can use to start conversations about their reading.
- Make plans to check in with your students over the summer. No child will forget getting a call from their teacher in July asking how their reading is going.
Colleen Cruz, Staff Developer and Director of Innovation for the Reading and Writing Project will lead this week's TCRWP Twitter chat on ways to make summer reading accessible and irresistible for all children. Don’t miss this chat for a wealth of ideas on how to ensure your students make time for reading this summer.
Each Wednesday night at 7:30pm eastern, The Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project hosts a Twitter chat using the hashtag #TCRWP. Join @colleen_cruz to chat about summer reading tomorrow night.
Not on Twitter? Take Heinemann’s free Twitter for Educators course here.
Anna Cockerille, Heinemann Editor and Coauthor of Bringing History to Life (Grade 4) in the Units of Study for Teaching Writing Series, was a teacher and a literacy coach in New York City and in Sydney, Australia, and later became a Staff Developer and Writer at TCRWP. She also served as an adjunct instructor in the Literacy Specialist Program at Teachers College. Anna has been a researcher for Lucy Calkins, contributing especially to Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement (Heinemann 2012), and the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, Grades 3–5 series (Heinemann 2010). Anna is currently serving as an editor on the forthcoming Phonics Units of Study series for grades K-2, and previously served as an editor for the Units of Study for Teaching Reading, K–5 series.
Follow her on Twitter @annagcockerille