Laying the Groundwork for Summer Reading Starts Now | Donalyn Miller

There are plenty of steps librarians can take in spring to get students primed for a summer of reading. 

In spring, state and federal mandates for high-stakes testing often crowd authentic reading experiences for students. No matter how much we have fostered our students’ engaged reading lives all year, schools flood young readers with negative messaging about reading during “testing season” and disrupt the routines and resources that keep kids reading. When our attention is directed toward test preparation and review, students may experience fewer opportunities to self-select and read books at school or visit the library.

Beyond the demands of test administration, spring often brings more schoolwide events like assemblies, field trips, sports competitions, fine arts performances, award ceremonies, and other changes to the regular schedule. Students may miss regular library visits or in-class reading time as a result. Further reducing access, if the library serves as a test administration site or performance and display space, or the librarian provides tutoring or test administration support, the library may be closed for days at a time.

It’s alarming—at the same time, we are measuring and celebrating our students’ growth, they may be reading less than they have all year. How can we keep reading momentum and interest going through the spring and prepare students for independent reading during the summer months? While the end of the school year seems distant, it is not too early to start transitioning students from school reading to home reading.

Here are some suggestions:

Increase home access to books during the summer

For many young people, schools—through our libraries, classroom collections, and book rooms—provide their primary source for reading material. When schools close during school vacations and holidays, this access disappears.

Work with local businesses, public agencies, libraries, and community groups to plan, sponsor, or host summer reading and literacy events. Many schools allocate funds or apply for grants to purchase books for children to take home. Others hold school or community book drives to collect and redistribute used books.

Book drives and book donation programs improve book ownership at home, but book checkouts may be more equitable and affordable. Many librarians and teachers allow students to borrow library and classroom books over the summer. Other schools open the library during the summer months. Be mindful that any summer program requiring kids to come to school may not serve families who cannot attend due to transportation needs or caregivers’ schedules. Some schools have developed summer reading programs delivering books to kids in parks, swimming pools, and neighborhoods.

Partner with your public library to encourage more families to acquire library cards. Invite youth librarians to your school to share their summer reading programs and sign families up for cards. Work with families to identify barriers to library use such as required residency documents or transportation. Some school districts and public libraries have developed programs where students may use their school identification cards as library cards.

Provide resources and support for caregivers.

While students need engaging, accessible reading material to sustain a summer reading habit, young readers still require modeling and support for their developing vocabulary and comprehension skills. Hold literacy events or workshops, or create a short video several times in the spring where adult caregivers get tips on how to read a book aloud, select books with their child, and monitor comprehension and vocabulary skills through authentic activities like extensions and discussion. Provide childcare at all family events and ensure communication and outreach to families with home languages beyond English.

Students who benefit from assistive technology like optical character recognition software or formats like audiobooks may need support for using platforms and tools at home. Work with families to identify and provide the materials and training they need to help their child over the summer. Some schools enroll their students in online text databases to provide more access, but many families lack reliable Internet service. Determine if all of your students can use online platforms at home and provide physical reading material or hotspots for families who need the support.

Celebrate students ’ reading growth and milestone reading experiences.

While we still have months of reading to go, spring offers opportunities for students to celebrate their reading growth, reflect on their positive reading experiences, and plan for future reading.

Help students create lists of books they might read over the summer. Seek students’ opinions about books, reading, and library programs. Collect recommendations for future students. Survey kids about their library and classroom reading experiences. Encourage students to book talk their favorite books of the year. Design inclusive programs and events celebrating all readers and avoid competitions and incentive programs that create a culture of reading winners and losers. In a strong reading community, all reading is valuable and all readers are valued. When we value students’ personal reading experiences and encourage their independence, we empower them as readers long after this school year ends.

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Kathrina O’Connell

Last summer I created a summer Literacy Academy for my doctoral research. The program provided free transportation, breakfast, lunch, and books for students to keep. The enrichment program was open for all students in grades 4-7 at my rural, Title I district. Participation in summer learning increased by 746% and 94% of students said that they read more because of the literacy-focused program that emphasized positive reading experiences. The Literacy Academy was so successful that we are expanding it to include grades 3-7 this summer.
This article concurs with my research that we must support our students’ learning all year and make the literacy experiences positive and engaging.

Posted : Mar 10, 2020 11:56


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