Becky Jones and Maggie Eisebeis, reading specialists in the Ladue school district in St. Louis, Missouri, have teamed up to share their thoughts on the summer slide. They’ve compiled a great list of ideas to help get your students involved and excited about summer reading.

Summer slide. We know all about it. We thought we were helping. Wasn’t talking with parents and writing on report cards, “Have a great summer and keep reading!” enough? Then Becky heard “I am glad summer is here. Now I won’t have to read every day!” from the mouth of one of her 3rd grade students. A lecture about skills regressing through the summer ensued, but it fell on deaf ears. We do a fabulous job creating a reading culture during the school year, but that culture takes a vacation the minute the final bell rings on the last day of school.

Many times we want to fault the families for not continuing the reading excitement, but really we as teachers are probably not doing a good enough job of promoting summer reading to our students. We need to make sure the reading culture we embrace during the school year continues even after school is out. We need to make students feel connected and motivated. And we also need to motivate them to be accountable for their reading. We came up with 10 ideas that could be modified for any age group. Here they are!

1. Empower the Students

You might be surprised what students will discover for themselves. Show them a chart about how reading correlates to test scores. Maggie did just that when she showed her 5th graders the graphic below. Her students were amazed that simply choosing to read more could have such an impact on their overall achievement. Next, follow up. At the beginning of the school year help your students see the connection between the end of the year scores and the beginning of the year scores. Have them reflect on the effect of their summer reading.

2. Give Them the Books! 

Not only can you send your students home with a list of suggested reads but also look for grants and other ways to send books home too! This summer we have identified 40 students who needed some extra summer reading encouragement. These students get to pick their own books from a selection of the hottest titles in their reading level. You can do this too. Be sure to send a personal message, such as “I care so much about your reading I’m setting you up with great reads for some amazing adventures this summer. I can’t wait to see what you think!”

3. End-of-Year Summer Reading Unit

Design a series of lessons to carry out over the last few days of school that teach students how to engage in summer reading:

  • Comprehension strategies. Have students make bookmarks that include ideas to remember.
  • Show students easy online tools to engage in book talks over the summer. You could even set up a blog specifically for your students to share what they are reading.
  • Have a goal setting and book recommending session.

4. Summer Reading Challenges

Introduce the fun, free summer programs in your community that reward reading. Hint: public libraries are full of them! Promote the challenges prior to the start-up date. Make posters. One challenge we’re doing this summer is offered through Scholastic. Students receive a log-in and password, and throughout the summer, they log the number of minutes read. The school with the most minutes logged gets a visit from author David Shannon!

5. Send Mail

Everyone loves snail mail. Even your students! At the end of the year hand out several pre-paid postcards for each student to send back to the principal telling about a book they’ve read. Post cards can be displayed on bulletin boards at the beginning of the school year. You can send post cards periodically to check in and remind the students to mail the cards.

6. Host a Summer Book Club 

Plan a short book club at the school over the summer. Let kids share their reading, have a snack and plan for new reading.

7. Enlist Parents

Get creative.

  • Back and Forth Journals: For this activity, parents and children both read the same book. Give parents a list of potential prompts to help them start their journal conversation, making sure to end with a question to allow reflection. Parents then place the journal on their child’s pillow with a pencil. This is a great way for kids to postpone bed time with a beneficial activity!

8. Featured Family Reader

Using a display calendar, on chosen days throughout the summer, have family members be the “featured family reader.” The reader will choose the book prior to reading and practice good reading skills before making their debut in the “family reader’s chair.”

9. Summer Reading “Book Bag” 

Give every student a paper bag at the end of the year. Over the summer, the student chooses a favorite book and decorates the bag with the title, author, and a picture to capture a scene, idea, event, etc. Then the student chooses three items to put in the bag that are symbolic or related to the book. Have students share their bags and explain their items the first week of school.

10. Bright Ideas for Summer is hosting Bright Ideas for Summer campaign. They have listed four activities geared toward Grades 2-8 to try.

Unfortunately, in our fast paced world reading has lost some of its luster. Maybe it’s because it can be slower or less flashy than movies or tv, or maybe some kids reject it because it’s too hard for them. Whatever the reason, it’s up to us to show them that reading can still be fun! The need to show our students how to unlock the love and power of independent reading is essential to their academic growth and putting an end to summer slide. Happy reading!

Written by Becky Jones and Maggie Eisenbeis. Becky Jones is a Reading Specialist in the Ladue school district in St. Louis, Missouri. As a child, historical texts did not appeal to Maggie, but now, three of her favorites pertain to history Behind Rebel Lines, Pink and Say and Number the Stars. She also loves Andrew Clements books. Maggie Eisenbeis is a Reading Specialist in the Ladue school district in St. Louis, Missouri. She is such a children’s book addict that she checks out at least 40 books every time she goes to the library. Maggie is currently reading Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfield. Two of her favorite fifth grade books are Bud, Not Buddy and Among the Hidden.