However, in recent years, I made it a personal crusade to make sure my students, who all embraced reading while in my classroom during the school year, continued their reading lives once they left fifth grade for the summer, where weeks of doing nothing but what they wanted appeared quite delightful to some.
The last week of reading workshop became the time we planned for what our summer reading would be like. Much like having a 40 Book Challenge (Donalyn Miller) during the school year, for a variety of reasons, students might not be able to achieve everything listed as a goal on their summer reading plan. That's okay because I knew that having the plan might just be the kickstart they needed to keep reading, rather the end result is two, ten, or thirty books completed. It beat the number zero every time!
When we developed our plans, we spent time looking at a variety of reading possibilities:
- the new book release calendar that John Schumaker kindly curates so that they could plan to read new books from favorite authors or series
- books that were so popular in our class they just didn't get their hands on them
- rereads of some of our read-alouds
- online reading
- audio book reading
- magazine and newspaper reading
- trying a genre they had never read before
- fun, easy on the brain, books
- the book they chose from the 6th grade summer reading list
The list went on and on. As students developed their own summer reading plan, tailored just for them by them, I could see the ownership they had in their reading. Students knew their likes and dislikes, and were basing their summer reading plan on that information.
But here's the thing - because those students moved on to middle school, a new building where I didn't see them, I'm not aware of how those reading plans fared. It would be wonderful to have a district plan where, each year, we all had students create summer reading plans for themselves, and then had the conversation of how they did with those plans at the beginning of the school year as we begin to learn about our new groups of readers. Wouldn't the knowledge based on that type of conversation be incredibly helpful at knowing students' reading interests and abilities?
When reading is assigned for the summer, I worry about the readers who do not have the tools to be able to access an understanding of the text. It is the same argument for why I believe read aloud is a critical part of a child's literacy day - it levels the playing field for those who might not be able to read the text on their own, but if I read it aloud, they can share in the contextual thinking along with everyone else.
Teaching, and in this case teaching literacy, is an art. So, is it fair to ask students lacking in those skills needed to understand a text, to read something "above their understanding" during the summer? Wouldn't it better to wait until we could use our "artistry" of teaching to best help them scaffold and understand a piece of literature?
I've rambled a bit today; I apologize. I do think this is an important conversation to have, and I am thrilled that Lee Ann started it now as she is reflecting on the summer reading her students did. It could help guide all of us to a better understanding of what are the best practices when it comes to summer reading. To read more about what others are saying around this topic, check out Lee Ann's blog.