We don’t need tons of research to tell us that some of our students lose ground over the summer because they aren’t reading. We see it in classrooms at the start of each new school year. Students from low-income families often experience the most summer slide because they often lack access to books during nonschool times (Allington et al., 2010). This can contribute to a large achievement gap after several years.
How can we make sure that all of our kids have access to books over the summer? Here are a few ideas for you to ponder:
1. Create a lending library. Put together packs of books for students to take home over the summer. You might be concerned that you won’t get the books back, but I haven’t experienced this. Record the titles, put them into a study bag, and they will come back, maybe even a bit worn from being read! If possible, have students help choose their books, but guide them toward picking texts they will be able to read nearly independently.
2. Take a field trip to the library with your students, and see if you can get parents to join you. Once there, help students learn where to find books they can read and enjoy. During my first few years of teaching, I was lucky to be in walking distance of the library. I took my students there often and found that they learned to love borrowing books and became avid library users.
3. Create a book giveaway program. Many schools have gotten creative and worked with their local community and state to provide books for students to keep. Book ownership is very powerful and can make an impact beyond your students since reads often get passed to younger siblings and other family members. Research has shown that book distribution programs can improve attitudes toward reading (Lindsay, 2010). This, in turn, increases the volume of reading.
4. Have a book fair. Students love selecting their own books. Take care of students who don’t have funds by arranging for donations to ensure everyone gets to purchase some books. However, make sure each student’s selection is only reading materials. I am always sad when a student uses their limited funds to buy a poster or other nonbook item.
5. Have a book swap. Get students to bring in old books they no longer want and encourage trading.
6. Make free BookBuilder Online stories at bookbuilderonline.com. This Pioneer Valley Books site lets you create personalized books for students that you can print and send home. The variety of leveled texts meets the needs of many early readers.
7. Send a letter home to parents with tips on how to encourage their children to read over the summer. I like suggesting that they keep baskets of books in the car, in the bathroom, and next to their child’s bed.
8. Call or send a postcard to students later in the summer. Tell them about what you are reading and ask how they are enjoying their books!
Most of all, encourage your students to have fun reading! Just like many of us often look forward to an entertaining beach read, our students need reading to be a pleasurable and easy experience that keeps them coming back to books!
Allington, R.L., McGill-Franzen, A., Camilli, G., Williams, L., Graff, J., Zeig, J., Zmach, C., & Nowak, R. (2010). Addressing summer reading setback among economically disadvantaged elementary students. Reading Psychology, 31(5), 411–427.
Lindsay, J. (2010). Children’s access to print material and education-related outcomes: Findings from a meta-analytic review. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates.