We’ve all heard about the summer slide—and as educators we’ve surely spent hours (if not days) wracking our brains for ways to prevent it. As you may have heard, there is one eensy-weensy, super simple, FUN way to prevent it: summer reading.

The single best predictor of summer loss or gain? Reading. And as with classroom reading, the three keys to engaged reading remain true for summer reading too: students need access, choice and just right books that they WANT to read. 

Of course, not all families have access to books—and districts can certainly help bridge that gap. In some cases, Title funding can be used for summer reading books; in others, grants are a tremendous help. Especially for low-income and rural families, access to books may be hard to come by. Getting summer reading books to your students AND getting them to read can require a bit of creativity, but it can be done!

Inspire Summer Readers with These Top Summer Reading Tips 

Check out this easy-to-follow list for ideas of how you, your school and your students’ families can work together to keep students reading all summer long!

1. Summer library check out. Whether from individual teachers or the school library, strongly consider creating a check-out system for over the summer. Are there risks? Sure. But the benefits of having students with books in their hands far outweigh the possible loss of a few bucks.

2. Book giveaways. This can be a structured district- or school-wide giveaway using Title funding or grants. This could also be smaller, informal raffle-type giveaways. Students LOVE to get free books, and they’ll be pumped to read their new goodies.

3. Host book swaps. Many families (or local organizations) will have books they’re ready to get rid of. Schedule one (or many) dates throughout the summer where previously loved books can be brought and traded for exciting new finds.

4. Share information with families! Use school newsletters, websites, take-home flyers—whatever you can—to get information out to families about the importance of summer reading and strategies for engaging their students.

summer reading program

Booksource Summer Reading Program

5. Encourage participation in summer reading programs. Your local library likely has a summer reading program with incentives built in (free t-shirts, free books, activities and more). Share information and even sign-up forms to make it easy. Other organizations, like Pizza Hut, have summer reading incentives too!

6. Provide summer reading lists and resources. Suggest hot titles, websites or ways to get books. Many families are eager for more information and insight into what their students can be reading. You can even build custom summer reading lists unique to each student through Booksource’s Summer Reading Program, so students have their very own collection of exciting summer titles to take home over summer vacation. 

7. Think outside the book. ALL reading counts. Magazines, street signs and billboards, restaurant menus, recipes, (age-appropriate) blogs and websites and more. Encourage students and their families to seize every available opportunity to devour the written word.

8. Plan ahead. What incentives and excitement will you offer when students return to school? Welcome lunches to discuss exciting summer reads? Book clubs? Opportunities for students to book talk their favorites? A summer book wall?

9. Stay in touch. An encouraging letter from the past year’s teacher or a welcoming one from the new teacher should always touch on summer reading choices! Share what you are reading and ask them the same. Keep reading in the forefront of their minds.

10. Encourage social reading. Whether this looks like a handful of students reading the same book, or encouraging (or even facilitating) periodic book club meetups, students are more likely to read when they know that others are reading too. Having the opportunity to share and discuss what they’re reading is a silver lining! An option for students that can’t get together? Book pen-pals!

11. Share your own summer reading plans. What are you reading? Where will you read? What are your reading goals?! Maybe you want to read one book from every genre you can find. Maybe you’re focusing on diverse authors or characters. Maybe you are doing a summer of poetry! Let them know what your plans are in order to spark their own desires and creativity.

12. Brainstorm summer reading opportunities with students. After you’ve shared your own plans, help them make their own. Get it all down on paper. Where are places they think they can read? When can they read? What can they read?

13. Set goals together. How many books are they aiming for? What new titles or series will they try? Encourage daily reading. Encourage them to bring a book with them EVERYwhere they go.

14. Provide a method for tracking summer reading. “Reading log” doesn’t have to leave a bad taste in your mouth. And it’s not the only way to track either! Get creative—use thermometers they can color in, paper chains to count down how many books they’ve read or a fun sticker chart. Make tracking easy, fun and a way to see their progress. They’ll be encouraged and driven to keep going!

15. Begin early, encourage often. Don’t wait to bring up summer reading during the last week of school. Spend weeks building up the idea that reading is an integral part of every summer break. Use vocabulary that builds up the excitement of reading: escape, indulgence, different worlds, relax, adventure, mysteries to solve and more.

Do what you can to get books to your students and help them see what you already know—reading is fun! It’s not meant to be another summer task; it’s something they should be excited to indulge in. 

What other ideas do you have to encourage summer reading and remind students that books are fun? Share your ideas with us! And be sure to check out literacy expert Donalyn Miller’s tips for launching summer reading too!