Research consistently shows that struggling readers fall even further behind over the summer months. Each year a wider gap is created between the higher achieving or more proficient and less proficient students, sometimes producing up to a two to three year reading gap. There are several things that we as educators can do to close this reading gap.
- Do NOT create a summer reading list!!!!!! I repeat, DO NOT CREATE A SUMMER READING LIST! Repeat this mantra to yourself at least one more time until you no longer feel the need to open a blank Microsoft Word document and compile a list of “assigned” books. Your students will see it for what it is an ASSIGNED list. I recently had a student who loves to read tell me that she had not read her assigned book for a research paper that she had to write. I asked her why she who always has a book in her hands had not completed an assignment that should be such a simple task for her to complete. She responded that when forced to read, she found she just couldn’t start a book much less finish one. If your students see reading as a required chore over the summer, I almost guarantee they will run as fast and as far away from any and all books as possible.
- Hold a “book share." At the beginning and end of every school year, my classes hold a book share. I encourage each student to find at least two books that they’ve read over the school year and to share these books with the class. I also bring a couple of my own favorites to the table. Everyone comes with a pencil and paper, writing down titles of books that they might want to look at over the summer. I encourage them to put down the name of the classmate who recommended a book they notice, so that they can ask more questions if they need to.
- Throw out the idea that in order for summer reading to count it has to be a BOOK. I keep a wide variety of subscriptions to magazines in my classroom. Scholastic has some great magazines geared specifically towards struggling readers. For each group of ten or more that you order, you also get teacher lesson plans! Another favorite magazine is ZooBooks. I order these for my own children to read during the summer. Caleb gets so excited every time one shows up. At the end of the year I always have a couple of issues that the class hasn’t been given the opportunity to peruse. I send these extra copies home with the students and encourage them to read them on those long car rides to grandma’s house.
- Give away older books to students to take home for summer reading. I keep a classroom library and am constantly updating my books. I can normally find one or two novels that have found their way behind my bookshelves during the school year. I figure I didn’t miss them during the school year, I won’t miss them later. If your school purchased the books, get permission first from your administrator. You can also hit up your librarian for used books.
- Give books as incentives. I give periodic reading inventories throughout the year to gauge my students’ reading levels. I also set award levels before each test. If a student makes significant gains during a testing period, I like to reward them with various rewards. One of my rewards is often a new book that I’ve picked up either on discount at the local bookstore or on Amazon.com. Many retailers also give an educator discount on top of already reduced prices. If it’s not mentioned in writing, ALWAYS ask! You never know until you do!
Charity Kinneer lives in northern Cherokee County with her husband Seth who is an area pastor, her oldest son Caleb who possibly reads more than his mommy and her youngest son Elijah who loves all things Mickey. She is currently a high school reading and literature teacher for the Cherokee County School District.