Before we know it, our school year will be ending and summer will begin. We hope our students will take with them the strategies, learning, and love of reading books. We hope our students will choose to read and continue their journeys as developing readers. We wonder how we can help provide and encourage our students to continue their reading identities.
So many school districts throughout our country and across Rhode Island require students to read from teacher chosen lists for a variety of reasons. For example, a great list on which to build upon for Middle School readers is the RI Book Award Nominees for 2019. Unfortunately, many of these lists do not provide students with the key to true engagement, student choice. A great resource of Middle School books for book clubs and self-selected reads is one created by Pernille Ripp.
This year, we read Passionate Readers by Pernille Ripp. Pernille’s passion is focused on literacy and on her students. By far, listening, hearing, and reflecting upon her student’s reading identities empassions her daily reading instruction. She has greatly helped us in our thinking about student choice, book abandonment, and developing a strong community of readers. We will be sharing our learning within our own Professional Learning Community during a faculty meeting this May. Please view this amazing video on YouTube for a fantastic interview with Pernille Ripp facilitated by Dr. Will Deyamport, III.
Recently, we read a post by Kyleen Beers, co-author of Notice & Note and Disrupting Thinking. Beers details that in order for middle school students to maintain their progress in reading, students should be reading between 5-6 books during the summer. In fact, kids who don’t read during summer vacation lose two to three months of reading achievement. (“The Effects of Summer Vacation on Achievement Test Scores”). Furthermore, she describes the four tenets of summer reading.
The tenets are:
- Read whichever books look good to you.
- Nudge students throughout the summer.
- Give students the opportunity to read easier books.
- Celebrate reading series books.
While we agree that preventing “summer slide”, or the loss of learning over the summer, is a noble cause, we want to ensure our efforts entice reading instead of making it a dictated, potentially negative experience. The right summer learning experiences can stave off regression and close achievement gaps. Research shows that when children select their own reading materials and read for enjoyment, they receive the most benefits – better reading comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, spelling and grammatical development. Students also benefit when the adults in their lives encourage them and read too. Including options that have social components also helps – meet-ups, blogs, group texts, etc.
Make families aware of the summer loss research. Afterall, forewarned is forearmed. Publicize summer reading programs in your area. Encourage families to include incentives for summer reading.
If summer reading is mandatory, we suggest putting lists together of can’t-wait-to-read books. Perhaps host book-tastings or book talks in June to create some enthusiasm for titles. If you must assign a book make sure it is accessible to all students. Will all students understand the book? Can they have different ways of accessing it – podcasts, partner reading, teacher assistance or check-ins, etc.? We hope we have given you food for thought about your practices and look forward to hearing from you.
Dawn & Dr. Brian