We asked K-6 teachers across the country what they do to encourage elementary summer reading for their students. From book clubs and book swaps to interactive plays and ice cream, here’s what they had to say!

“To create buy-in for the next year’s upcoming students, I offer incentives in an over-the-summer activity that involves a “game board” for tracking summer reads. For every genre they read and summary they provide, they get to “move” around the game board. Prizes are awarded based on how far they get around the board. At the end of the summer, parents sign off on it, and then students turn it in when school starts. The prizes vary from free homework coupons and small trinkets to free kids’ meals at various restaurants. Sometimes I may throw in “get out of jail cards” which can be turned in for test corrections or to drop one low score on an assignment. The kids and parents love it. The activity helps spread some excitement for reading and also gives me insights about the books they enjoy and their writing skills, giving me a starting point on where to begin their instruction.”

                                                                                     —Alisha Porter, middle school language arts and social studies in Columbus, OH

“It’s the rage and everyone is doing it! What? Belonging to a book club. A book club is a fun and exciting activity that friends and family can do together over the summer. Select a book that everyone reads, older children and adults can read to younger siblings or pick a theme and each age group reads a book related to it. Put a date on the calendar, pick a fun snack—maybe something related to your book or theme—and have a lot of fun. Younger children are good with identifying character and setting while older children and adults can apply higher-thinking skills. It’s a win-win activity.”

                                                                                            —Patty Morgan (MaED, RYT), retired educator from Moon Township, PA

“During 4th quarter, I recommend taking students on a trip to the local library where students can get their library cards and learn to search for books. Getting students excited about the library and the upcoming summer programs before school ends helps them to stay motivated about going to the library during the summer.

In grades 4, 5 and 6 at our school, teachers do a lot of preplanning for our summer suggestions. We do the leg work to ensure every child has a public library card and take a field trip at the  end of the school year. Our local public library has a summer reading program that rewards any child who completes all of his or her readings. Each participant receives passes to local theme  parks and is also entered in bigger reward drawings.

As a school we utilize Accelerated Reader through Renaissance Learning. We compile a reading suggestion list by grade level. Each student is encouraged to keep reading and taking AR Quizzes throughout the summer months.”

                                                                                                                  —Jezail Lewis, first-grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools

“Children with special needs benefit from multi-sensory learning. So for summer reading, it is beneficial for parents to use all the senses when engaging their child in activities. Parents can have their child act out his or her favorite story. They can invite their child to listen to books on tape, then create 2D and 3D art projects depicting their favorite parts of the story. When reading with their child, parents can use passages or stories that are of high interest and are grade or age appropriate. Many children learn best by experiencing what they learn so it is important to provide hands-on experiences and real-life experiences related to the stories, such as planning a trip to the grocery store and relating reading to summer activities that you have planned. Most importantly make the activities engaging and fun!”

                                                                                            —Ebony Smith, diverse learner teacher for K-3 in Chicago Public Schools

“Throughout the school year I use ReadWorks which offers reading passages along with short comprehension quick checks. I also use Tumblebooks which allows students to listen to a story as it is read to them while reading the highlighted text as the story is told (Storynory is another fun website for kids to listen to stories being read). I send these websites home with a reading summer packet that includes several genres of literature for students to read over their break. At the end of the year, I do a book swap where students get to exchange books from home with books from classmates and from my own classroom library. This gives them a whole new set of books for summer reading!”

                                                                                        —Amanda Roth, special education teacher for primary in Chicago Public Schools

“I encourage my students to share their favorite book in Spanish with their classmates, make their own summer book lists in Spanish and English and motivate them to go to the library. For my reluctant readers, I introduce them to audiobooks like Tumblebooks and StoryLine.”

                                                                                                                          —Vanessa Viduretta, grade 4 Spanish immersion teacher

“I provide a summer reading calendar that is a continuation of what we use in school. I teach second grade, so I feel it is really about fostering a love of reading and building fluency. My saying is always “15 minutes before bed gets you ahead.” The calendar I use has ways to track minutes read daily and weekly. I encourage parents to set weekly goals and try to do at least 15 minutes a day, with little rewards for meeting the weekly goals, like an outing of some sort, picnic, etc.”

                                                                                                                          —Dana Bauer, second-grade teacher from Pittsburgh, PA

“I send home a calendar. Each day has a short activity (5-15 minutes) that corresponds to a standard we learned that year spanning all subject areas (but mostly ELA). I give them the weekends off (ha, ha) but encourage reading every day. My favorite activity is when they write me a letter over the summer!”

                                                                                                   —Lauren Rothermel, first-grade teacher from Moon Township, PA

“We developed a first grade unit of study called ‘Planning for Summer Reading.’ Mini-lessons include reflecting on reading growth throughout the year, planning our summer ‘stacks,’ ways to get our hands on books (previews of summer reading programs from bookstores, libraries and those available online) and things to read besides books. The unit ends with a summer book swap. Kids bring in up to three books they would like to swap and take home 3 ‘new’ books. The swap is supplemented by teachers, parents and book donations so all kids can participate.”

                                                                                                   —Jennifer Pastore, fourth-grade teacher from Northwest Arkansas

“I always encourage my students to read something fun as well as something challenging for them. We look for books together at the end of the year, aiming for books that are at least two reading levels above their current reading level for their challenging book. I always let them choose the fun book alone!”

                                                                                            —Arregina McCullum, special education teacher for K-3 from Chicago, IL

“Make weekly trips to the library. It sounds so simple, but it’s so powerful. Make it something for your kids to look forward to every week. Stop for ice cream or some play time in the park as well!”

                                                                                                                                     —Julia Eberlin, retired educator from Brussels, IL

“I like to encourage my kids to read through the alphabet. I challenge them to read a book with a title that starts with each letter of the alphabet. For example: A-Allegient; B-Because of Winn-Dixie; etc. Q can be hard, try Q is for Duck. Students enjoy looking through the library to find titles that fit, and they tend to find books they would never have read before.”

                                                                                                                 —Denise Engstrom, third-grade teacher from Fort Atkinson, WI