Summer reading? Oh, I leave that to our public library, you say. They do a terrific job. Yep. Ours does too. I am amazed at what our public library does each summer and grateful for their work.
But you can help too. And why should you?
Consider the implications of a landmark study cited in a School Library Journal article this month by Carol Fiore and Susan Roman, "Summer Reading Programs Boost Student Achievement."
The study concludes that "...children who read at least six books during the summer maintained or improved their reading skills, while kids who didn't read any saw their skills slip by as much as an entire grade level" (p. 27).
An entire grade level. Are you up for summer reading in your school library now?
If so, be sure to read Carol Gordon's article, also in SLJ's November 2010 issue, "Meeting Readers Where They Are: Mapping the Intersection of Research and Practice."
Both articles will provide data and ideas to give your planning for summer reading a thoughtful boost.
So what can you do?
*Open your school library one morning or afternoon a week in the summer. Be sure your administrator is on board since getting the AC turned on in the summer may be a hurdle (Middle school and high school librarians, secondary kids need to read as much as the little guys!)
*Begin creating relationships with students who likely wouldn't consider going to the library in the summer but may need it most. Fiore and Roman cite research that summer reading participants are most often girls, Caucasian, and advantaged, so try to expand these boundaries significantly.
*Reach out to parents and grandparents of these students. Kids are going to need a ride, and probably encouragement to come to the library in the summer.
*Don't feel compelled to "do programming" each week. Check out books, recommend books to kids in a personal way, and provide a venue for kids to interact with each other about books. Snacks are good!
*Use web 2.0 tools to help create your community of readers. Run student-created book trailers on a loop, display book covers in a digital picture frame at the circ desk, and set up a great-looking summer reading blog in which students can recommend their favorites. Have kids use flip cameras to interview their friends for recommendations or to make short book commercials.
*Create a welcoming atmosphere in the library. Smile and greet each student by name. Display books face out and have lists available of popular series, genre recommendations, and authors. Good signage helps demystify finding books. Visit with kids.
*Offer new books that kids will want to read. Provide free choice. Talk to kids about what they read and set up a venue for them to talk to their peers about books.
*Consider another name (or no name at all) than summer reading. Ick.
*Model reading yourself, and read what they're reading. This part is huge!
*"Reading is its own reward," notes Carol Gordon by way of Krashen in "Meeting Readers..." Yes! Don't cheapen reading by bribing kids with rewards, prizes, or certificates for summer reading. Don't make it homework by asking them to give reports or keep lists. Show them how to read for fun. PERIOD.
How can you help students retain critical skills in the summer? Open the library. Welcome kids, and get to know them well enough to recommend books they'll like. Read with them. Talk to them.
And now that you have summer reading (or whatever you're going to call it) planned, we can get back to thinking about that holiday menu. Cheers!