We started speaking about the summer slide at the beginning of the year. How this year’s mission was for somehow to keep students wanting to read even when no one was around to hold them accountable. Even when no one said they should. For some of my students, this was no big deal. They already read all of the time on their own accord and could not possibly imagine not reading. And then there were the others, those that smirked a little, possibly even rolled their eyes. Summer and reading, yeah right?!
And yet…as I have read their reading memoirs and asked them for their plans, I have seen the change. As I have asked them what they plan on reading, a few more have risen to the occasion, have told me that when they travel. When they sit by the pool. When they have nothing to do. Perhaps, just perhaps, they will read a book.
For them to read a book, they need a book. It is too easy for us to assume that all of our students have great books in their homes already. It is too easy for us to assume that all of our students will be able to get to the library. It is too easy for us to assume that all of our students have money to pay for books and can get to a bookstore. But the truth is, that many of our students do not have great books at home, do not have the means to get to a library, or do not have the means to purchase books. But we can help that.
First, we have to start thinking about the fines we place on children when they lose a book. While I get that books are expensive and that we need some sort of accountability, we know that fines and fees can become the very obstacle that keeps our most vulnerable readers out of the library. So is there a way for a family to dig their way out of the fines? Can they do something else than pay money to have their accounts cleared? Can we value readers more than books? I lose books every year, it is what it is, and I rest easy thinking of Nancie Atwell’s wisdom, that if we do not lose some books every year, our books are not good enough.
We also need to partner with our public library. After all, a great presentation from a passionate librarian can make a huge difference. They can tell the kids about all of the cool programs happening at the local library, book talk books, and bring in public library card applications for those kids that don’t have one.
Our school library can do a summer check out. We are so lucky at our school that our librarians do just that. Students can check out up to ten titles over the summer with parent permission. All they do is fill out this permission form and then they come on the 29th of May and bookshop. I have also heard of school libraries having summer hours or even summer bookmobiles that travel to the neighborhoods of our students. Since they are not in our schools, why not bring the books to them?
We can open our own bookshelves. There is very little reason for all of our books to sit and collect dust throughout summer. So why not open up your classroom library as well? For some of my kids getting parent permission will be a near impossibility, so I do not require it. Our summer checkouts started yesterday, equipped with their to-be-read list, students get to grab a stack of books to bring home over the summer. I have a simple spreadsheet where I write down the child’s name and every book they grab and then have a column for whether they returned it or not. My students have been working on their to-be-read lists all year, now is the time to put it to work! I tell students they can bring them back over the summer by dropping them off at our office or bring them back on locker drop off or when 8th grade starts again. Sure, I lose a few books every year doing this but it is worth every single page read!
And finally, we can hand them a book. The last month or so, I have been scouring stores to amass 150 books that our students can select from on the very last day of school. By using places like Books4School and Scholastic, we have an amazing selection of drop everything and read books that hopefully will entice our students to read. This is our way of telling them thank you, of giving them another chance to read this summer, of thanking them for a great year together.
All those books we so lovingly pull together for our students deserve to be continually placed in their hands. Let’s keep the children reading this summer, one book at a time.
If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child. This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block. If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students. Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.