As the weather gets warmer we begin to think about those long, lazy days of summer that lay ahead. As readers we make lists in our heads of all those books we’ll get to—reading by the pool, reading in the hammock, reading with our toes buried in the sand. And, as teachers, we think about our students. We’ve worked hard all school year to get them hooked on books, building their engagement and stamina along the way.

Now what?

How do we keep our high school students reading over the summer, especially those reluctant ones who have just become readers? How do we keep their brains engaged and stop the summer slide? And most of all, how do we help kids see reading in the summer as a joy, not as an assignment to be finished with dread? While library and book store incentive programs are great for avid readers who will frequent these places anyway, I’m proposing a slightly different path to keep our hard-won readers in books this summer. Here is a menu of suggestions that you can choose from to design a program to engage a variety of teen readers this summer. Pick and choose what works for you!

Start before school ends!

  1. Get Books in Their Hands!The number one question to ask when planning summer reading is, how do I get books in my kids’ hands all summer long? These are not assigned books, nor is this a required task. It’s an invitation and a choice. The most obvious place is the classroom library. Consider allowing students from your class to take a few books home to read over the summer. Along the same line, talk with your librarian about letting students check out books from the school library. Finally, introduce students to sources of free e-books they can download on their computers, phones or tablets. An abundance of free e-books are available through public libraries, Kindle, Project Gutenberg and other websites such as com.
  1. Teach them why Before the school year ends, teachers need to start talking about summer reading. Students who know why summer reading is important are more likely to do it. With high school students you can share information about summer slide, about the importance of volume reading and about preparing for college reading. Tying this information in with end-of-the-year reading success celebrations will help students make informed decisions over the summer. Nothing guarantees that students will read, but knowledge and relevance make it more likely.

Here are three resources to help you:

  1. Help students plan – During the school year, my students are always mindful of reading as an on-going process. We routinely add to a list of books to read next, set goals and learn about new books. Students should do the same for summer by creating a summer reading plan. What books do they want to read? How many pages? What new genre do they want to try? When can they read? Where can they read? How will they access more books if they run out? If a plan is in place, students have a chance of using it.
  • Add book events to their calendars and schedule reminders
  • Create lists of books they want to read
  • Invite kids to follow your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat where you’ll be posting about books this summer
  • Create an electronic library account before vacation starts

Don’t let them forget you over the summer!

  1. Library Night – Host several Library Nights at your school over the summer. Partner with your librarian to have the school library open in the evening once a month (or more!) so students can come in and check out new books. You can plan to have food, something special like a book give-away or even music playing at the event to draw kids in.
  1. Social Media – Social media is the way our kids communicate and the possibility of fame is enticing to many kids. Use this to your advantage! Use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube or Snapchat to share books this summer. You can post short reviews and you can invite students to contribute posts about books they’ve read. These reviews could be in the form of a short promo with a picture, a blog post or even a book trailer video. As the teacher, you’ll be offering book choices all summer long. For students, it’s an invitation to share their thoughts with a wider audience. And, if you collect the reviews before school ends, students will be looking for their own all summer long!
  1. Book Clubs – Host a book club each month at a local venue like a coffee house, restaurant or bookshop. You can get student input about which books to choose, have teachers promote the books the last couple weeks of school and then get everyone together to discuss the book. Again, this is a choice, not an assignment. For incoming freshmen who are excited to be at high school, you might consider hosting the book club in a classroom or common area in the high school. For upperclassmen a popular central location might be more enticing. At the book club, food can be provided or available; topics of discussion should be prepared ahead of time, but only used if the conversation needs a jump start. As much as possible, everyone should have a chance to share and listen to authentic responses and thoughts about the book. Be sure to have plenty of the next books on hand, so students can trade in their books!
  1. Book Give-Aways – To encourage students to follow your blog and social media site, plan book giveaways throughout the summer. This is a simple way to encourage kids to read your blog or posts (think how crazy we teachers go when someone is giving away a free book!). Before school ends, encourage students to follow you and publicize the books you’ll give away. Then, simply plan which books you’ll give away when. On Twitter, retweets get students entered. On Facebook, Instagram and blogs, students must comment for their chance to win.

And when you come back in the fall, it’s reunion time!

  1. Celebrate!Get in touch with students by announcing a reunion. This can be a quick before or after school drop-in so kids can return books to you and tell you about their favorites; or you can plan a more elaborate get-together with snacks, conversation and an activity (i.e., make book advertisements for a hallway bulletin board).
  1. AnnouncementsLet your summer readers be guest speakers on the all-school announcements, sharing what they’ve read and making recommendations to others. They’ve been reading all summer, we don’t want them to stop now!

All your efforts to get kids reading during the summer should be based on options, choice and pleasure. Summer is a time of freedom, so requiring students to read isn’t what we’re after. We want compelling reasons and engaging books so that students choose to read.

Visit me at for high-interest, high school book suggestions all summer long!


Cassandra Clare Summer Giveaway

We are partnering with Simon and Schuster to give away Cassandra Clare’s newest title, Lady Midnight. Along with the books, you’ll received some sweet bookdd swag for students (tattoos, bookmarks, posters, limited edition keychains, Tarot cards and more!)—use the swag to promote Lady Midnight for summer reading! Enter below for your chance to win!

Entries are limited to the United States. Contest ends 11:59 p.m. CST on May 29, 2016. Winners will be randomly selected.


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