Summer reading…the words a six-year-old loves to hear and words an eighth grader loathes. What happens during those years to put dread in something so great? I’m not completely sure myself. I do know that as an eighth-grade ELA teacher, my students would get their high school summer reading lists in the mail in May and beg me to give them advice on which book was the “easy way out.” This makes me so sad. As we all know, three months is a long time for students to not pick up a book. The summer slide is real, and it’s a dangerous trip to the bottom.

Bottom line, it’s not okay to not read for three months. So what can we do? How can we help parents who must face that daily fight with reluctant readers? These ideas may help.

Let’s give students a choice.

Prescribing a list of books to choose from probably won’t make reading happen. Instead, offer suggestions that students can use if they want. Offer books that rely on comprehension skills yet let them relax a bit, too. Graphic novels are an excellent choice. Students must pay close attention to visual detail, create inferences, and look for cause and effect throughout. They think they’re reading comics…but we know! While we want them to choose books that challenge themselves a bit, there’s nothing wrong with offering a little book candy to throw in the mix as well. We all like a quick read and a fun story.

Parents like a heads up! 

Going over suggested reading lists at the last Home and School or PTO meeting can get mom and dad excited too. I bet there are books on that list that they remember or have read.  Encourage parents to get kids into a routine of reading. Maybe it’s that lazy time after breakfast or maybe it’s after a bath and right before bed. If parents become part of the reading, students are more likely to be excited about it, too.  I remember when my daughter was younger; we would have family reading time- every night, all together.  She’s in college now, and how I now long for those intimate times.

With young and old students alike, encourage them to read what their friends are reading. 

Even reluctant readers will have some effect from peer pressure and something to frantically talk about in August that just might push them in the right direction. Suggest books that have been made into movies! And contrary to what many may assume, it’s not against the rules to watch the movie first, especially when it comes to more complex texts.

And while we want so desperately to hold our students accountable for what they’ve read over the summer, I’ve found that tests, papers, or projects just pull the reader away and causes way too much stress for the whole family in August.

What about a book talk party during that first week?  Giving students an invitation to the book bash ahead of time gives them something to look forward to.

Even the middle school and high school students love snacking and talking. Giving them an opportunity to talk about the books, dress as characters, or create something collaboratively in class takes a little of the pressure off them, yet still holds them accountable. Students tend to want to make a good impression early in the year! This is an excellent opportunity for you to gain insight to your new group, as well.

Students shouldn’t dread the first day of school because they are anxious over those books they have read. We want them to come to school excited, full of spirit and hope. We want them to feel safe and welcomed and valued. Pressure will only lead to dread. Let’s share these tips with parents, give students flexibility and expectations, and provide a fun, nonthreatening activity for the first week of school.

While we know that lounging with our favorite book in the summer heat, wearing our prescription sun glasses while donning our favorite hat is the perfect summer activity, many youngsters don’t.  However, when I do see that twelve year old reading at the pool, I can’t help but get the shivers, even if it is 98 degrees with 100 % humidity!