A school-wide summer reading initiative is a powerful way to keep students reading over the summer holidays. It also helps build relationships between the school, families and whānau, and public libraries, strengthening the network of support for students.
1. Form a summer reading team
The first step to planning a summer reading initiative in your school is to form a team to direct, plan and drive your holiday reading programme. Sharing the responsibility helps ensure the long-term sustainability of the programme.
Ideally, the team would include school library staff, teachers from different year levels and the school’s literacy leaders. You could also involve student representatives and parents, perhaps through your Board of Trustees.
The leadership role of this team will include:
- informing the school community about summer reading
- developing and organising the initiative and measuring its impact
- promoting and coordinating the initiative among teachers, school leaders, librarians (public and school) and families/whānau.
2. Review the research and audit existing school initiatives
Review the research
Review the research to get a clear understanding of the summer slide and the benefits of running a coordinated school-wide initiative to keep students reading over summer.
Be aware of aspects that contribute to the success of initiatives such as:
- reading for pleasure
- students choosing their own books
- involvement of parents, families/whānau and public libraries.
Discuss summer reading with the school staff, share the evidence, and identify priorities and actions.
Research on the summer slide and summer reading
Audit existing initiatives
Find out what's happening already in your school around summer reading. There may already be existing initiatives happening in the school library, individual classrooms or through connections with the local public library.
Reflection on current practice (pdf, 194KB) — use this questionnaire to help your audit.
Summer reading stories — stories from schools about how they planned, managed, and evaluated summer reading initiatives.
3. Plan your initiative
Focus on reading for pleasure, with a community approach that involves:
Identify time frames
Shortage of time is one of the most common issues raised when a new initiative is being proposed. It's crucial to plan what needs to happen and by when.
- Start your summer reading planning early — at least by term 3 — so you can manage it within an often busy, end-of-year schedule.
- Allow time for promoting the initiative and running events. See if you can coordinate with other school activities.
Other things you can do to make a summer reading initiative easier to plan and manage are:
- build in a programme of holiday reading or holiday borrowing for each school holidays — so it becomes 'business as usual' rather than just a summer programme
- organise school library routines to ensure the library is available at the end of the term for summer loans.
Consult colleagues and plan what needs to be done and how to share the responsibility.
Identify roles and responsibilities
Decide who will be responsible for various actions in your plan, including students where possible.
Teachers — prepare your students for summer reading
School libraries — encourage summer reading
4. Address the challenges in your planning
Feedback from our Sail into Summer Reading programme suggests schools sometimes face challenges when planning school summer reading initiatives. Here are some suggestions for things your planning team can do to avoid some of the common problems.
Bring your staff on board
Support from the principal, providing leadership and direction to staff, will help bring them on board. Background information, such as the summer reading research and what other schools have done, will also help.
Start the discussions early in the school year to give everyone time to build the summer reading initiative into the overall school calendar.
Communicate regularly with colleagues and give them resources to encourage them to support your initiative:
- Include library staff and teachers from the beginning — make sure these key people aren’t left out.
- Provide staff with resources to get the programme off the ground — such as templates, handouts, book lists from your school library, information from public library programmes, and information for parents.
- Get some willing staff to trial some measures to get some initiatives underway, and share the results of these.
Principals — lead summer reading
Enlist parental, family and whānau support
Gaining support from parents and whānau is essential to the success of your summer reading initiative, so they'll need information and resources too. Emphasise the difference their support makes to a student's academic achievement.
Things you can do include:
- giving practical suggestions on how to keep children reading
- providing resources to keep children reading
- supplying permission slips for taking home school library books as a way to communicate with the family and whānau about borrowing
- helping organise public library membership through the school and students
- recommending books, e.g. easy to read, series that hook kids in, good read-alouds.
Families — keeping your child or teen reading over summer
Reading at home
Generate interest among students
Students need to understand why summer reading matters. How you go about explaining this will depend on the age and level of understanding of your chosen group.
- Show their reading progress — perhaps using a graph.
- Promote great books, ensuring there's plenty of choice in different formats, genres and levels.
- Sharing your own enthusiasm as reading role models.
- Get teachers to do 'preparation, promotion and practice' activities in their learning spaces. For example, how to choose books, how to manage difficulties in reading, practising sustained silent reading (SSR), and discussing books and reading.
- Create fun, easy and personal challenges, such as reading logs, reading passports, number of books or words read, minutes spent reading.
Use our summer reading log (pdf, 518KB)
Remove any barriers caused by school library operations
Help your school library make it easy for students to borrow enough books for several weeks of summer reading.
- Work with library staff to review and relax your library's borrowing policies, especially your library management system's settings for borrowing limits.
- Review how your school library's policies about overdue or lost books affect continued borrowing by students. Consider any impact this may have on their literacy development.
- Ensure stocktaking can either be done while the library remains open, or rescheduled to another time of year.
- Work out how and when your school library could re-open once or twice in January for students to exchange their books. The planning team will need to clarify whether this will involve paid time for library staff or be done on a voluntary basis, and whether issues of security are involved.
- Support students who are changing schools. For example, if you're a secondary school library, consider issuing items to year 8 intermediate school students who've enrolled as year 9 students in your school.
School libraries — encourage summer reading has more suggestions for how the school library can change its policies and encourage students to read over the holidays.
The library has traditionally been closed about four weeks from the end of the year. I am new to the position and managed an 'open door' stocktake perfectly well.
— Participant, Sail into Summer Reading programme
[We offered] a special ‘Book Break’ day for borrowing after stocktake. As all books were returned, students could take an entire series.
— Participant, Sail into Summer Reading programme
Ensure summer reading is budget-friendly
Summer reading doesn’t need to be costly.
Overheads may include the costs of photocopying information and reading logs or opening the library during January to issue more library books. But, you don't need prizes or costly rewards. Most research says the rewards from reading need to be intrinsic rather than extrinsic to keep children motivated.
5. Measure and set outcomes
This is about gathering evidence for your initiatives, and getting some baseline data so you can measure its results.
Review school data on student reading levels and the impact of summer holidays on student achievement. Set outcomes such as reading for pleasure, identifying target groups of children who may not have access to support or resources over the summer or are reluctant readers.
Measuring the impact of summer reading
Evidence-based school library practice
6. Promote your programme
Consider using a brand or slogan for your holiday reading initiative with a logo or theme to use on all printed and online materials.
You'll need to use a range of ways to promote your initiative and get colleagues, students, and the parent and local community on board. Channels may include:
- face-to-face meetings
- school events
- school and school library websites and blogs
- social media
- school newsletters
- flyers and brochures
- school television
- a media release to local newspapers.
Liaise with the local public library:
- Discuss your initiative and ways the children’s or teen librarians could collaborate with you.
- Invite these librarians to your school to promote any of their programmes.
- Encourage students to participate in public library holiday reading programmes.
Public libraries — encourage summer reading
7. Review, report, reflect, and refine
Schedule some time at the start of the new year to:
- celebrate reading efforts
- gather evidence about the impact of your summer reading initiative, and
- review the initiative to refine and extend it in subsequent holidays.
To share the impact of the school’s initiative and to get support for future initiatives:
- report to school management and the Board of Trustees
- celebrate successes with students
- liaise with the public library to share feedback
- create publicity in the community to spread the holiday reading message.
Reflection on current practice (pdf, 194KB)
Summer reading reporting template (docx, 719KB)
8. Resources to help you share the message
Summer reading programme PowerPoint presentation (pptx, 1.4MB) — a presentation you can use to share information about addressing the summer slide with staff.
Summer reading programme PowerPoint presentation notes (pdf, 233KB)