It is the time of year again when we meet in departments to plan out summer reading programs. For me, the words “summer reading” can be a delight and a drain. I work at a school that requires summer reading for college prep and honors English classes at every grade level, which can present some challenges. Even with the struggles, I think that summer reading is a battle worth fighting. If you are interested in some of the scientific benefits of summer reading, click around this site for a bit. Here are my thoughts on putting together a summer reading program that will enhance the curriculum without burning out teachers or students.
1. Offer high interest materials. Summer is a great time to give students a book that will keep the pages turning and not keep the eye lids drooping. Pick something that will appeal to the teenagers at your particular age and level. This strategy combats my biggest struggle, which is the lack of motivation for some students. Some suggestions:
- The John Green books, like Looking for Alaska, The Fault in Our Stars, or An Abundance of Katherines- It is fun for teenagers to read about other quirky teenagers.
- Science fiction and fantasy- the kind of books that often get left out of the traditional canon in the school year. I like books like Dune, The Time Machine, or Hitchhikers Guide too the Galaxy, but there are tons out there to choose from.
- Other YA faves like Catcher in the Rye, 1984, Perks of Being a Wallflower, etc.
2. Offer reasonable choices. It is nice to offer choices in case some students have read some of the books on the list and also to honor the interest factor for a wide range of students. Each book should be of reasonable length for students and the book list should be of reasonable length for teachers. In my humble opinion, the teacher should have read all of the books on the list in order to engage in discussion and assessment.
3. Keep assignments simple. If you are doing handouts, questions, essays or anything else with the book, keep it simple. Summer reading should be about enjoying some quality literature and not getting bogged down in minutia.
4. Make it count. Students learn very quickly and then word gets out if the summer reading assignment does not “count for anything.” If you can, make the assessment or discussion worth a substantial point value. In case students don’t complete the assignment well, I like for the summer reading to be worth enough to hurt the first quarter grade, but not so much that the semester grade cannot recover.
5. Bring the conversation online. If you are working with a manageable sized group, using a platform like Collaborize Classroom could be a great way to check in with students throughout the summer. Click here for a Collaborize Classroom tutorial.
6. Be flexible and have a back up plan. I’ve never had a year with no transfer students or other I-didn’t-get-the-summer-reading situation. When this happens, I usually excuse the assignment or give students until the end of the first quarter to get it done. The first few years, I let this eat me alive because I was in pursuit of that perfect summer reading program. It is not out there. Make it work.
What are your thoughts on summer reading? Leave a comment below!