Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Walking up the "Summer Slide" one book at a time...

We've all been there before... That daunting task of getting students to read over summer vacation. As teachers we know how important summer reading is to help combat the "summer slide" that takes place over the months of July and August. Reading during the summer helps improve and retain literacy and language skills. Studies show that students who don't read or read rarely over the summer experience a decline or stagnation in their reading skills when school starts in the fall.

We don't want all the hard work done over the course of a school year to unravel at the beach or by the pool. We need to keep kids engaged in learning opportunities throughout the summer. Sounds simple enough, but how can we compete with the attraction of the great outdoors, sports, video games, and trips to the beach?

The answer is to keep reading FUN! We need to make reading as exciting as a pool party or the latest video game. Here are some tips for keeping reading fun and fresh throughout the summer:

  1. Use technology to your advantage! Most families I know have an iPad or tablet and kids love to use them. There are some awesome interactive ebooks out there that will keep kid's attention. LeapFrog has some great ebooks for younger kids to use with their LeapPads. There are also some great sites out there that will help keep students engaged in literacy and language activities. RAZ Kids provides students with leveled texts that they can read themselves, have read to them, and even record themselves reading. They also complete quizzes after each book to earn points used to dress up their avatar. Storyline Online is a video database of favorite children's books read to you by celebrities. One of my favorites is Thank You Mr. Faulkner, by Patricia Polacco. It may be a picture book, but it's a good story perfect for 4th-5th graders. This book has a strong message about bullying and acceptance. Check out the Storyline video for this great book below:
  2. Find new and interesting books! There is nothing more detrimental to a struggling reader than a boring book! To keep kids engaged you need to find out what they are interested in. Then search around to find books that are just the right fit. Throughout my 9 years teaching I've come across two very reluctant readers. Each one was considered a "troublemaker", did not care about their school work, and did not have any support at home. Instead of writing them off I guided them to read My Side of the Mountain, by Jeanne Craighead George (I based this on their love of the outdoors). The results were magical! Instead of being a distraction to the class with their usual shenanigans they had their noses in that book 24/7. Their classwork started to improve, homework was getting done, and their overall outlook on school changed. They were all the proof I needed that the right book in the right hands can be a game changer. Here are some great books, old and new, that might help grab the attention of your reluctant reader:
  3. Create a climate for reading! Students need to see you read! Simple as that. We all have busy lives and often think "Who has time to read for pleasure?" But how can we expect our children and students to read when we don't? Kids need to know that their teachers and parents read for fun. Seeing adults read creates positive role models for students and helps create a community of readers in your school (or home). I know it's tempting to sit and correct papers or wash the dishes while your students/children read independently but fight that urge! I bring in a book from home and read while my students do. They often ask me about what I'm reading and we'll have impromptu discussions about our books. Here's what I'm looking forward to this summer...
  4. Celebrate reading accomplishments! Every year our students in CT are asked to complete the Governor's Summer Reading Challenge. Mostly it's a pamphlet where students list all the books they read over the summer. It's cute, but alone it does not provide any incentive for students to read. At our school students get 1 inch of duct tape for ever book they read. Then, the use their duct tape to tape a teacher to the wall during lunch. It's fun, but it's not a huge motivator. I know a lot of schools that have great reading celebrations when school starts in the fall and I'm hoping that our school will soon too. This year I created a points system for summer reading that I will have my incoming students use. They get points for reading in various setting and for reading various types of text. During the first week of school they will count up their points and trade them in for a reward or celebration (I'm still working out what that will be...) Click on the image below to get this activity for your classroom: 

Good luck to teachers and parents everywhere as we battle to defeat the "summer slide"!
I'd love to hear how you keep your students engaged in summer reading. Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Have a GREAT summer!

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