Know the research into summer reading
Professor Stuart McNaughton's research into Summer Reading in Decile 1 schools in New Zealand, School achievement: Why summer matters recommends 4 steps teachers can take to reduce the summer slide:
- Find out about students’ summer reading at the beginning of the year.
- Find out what children like to read and engage them in reading motivating texts.
- Mentor students to develop those aspects of their literacy which are to do with engagement, their development of 'taste' and informational interests. Teach them to access these texts and to monitor their enjoyment.
- Give specific messages to parents about how to support children’s engagement with text.
School achievement: Why summer matters
Professor McNaughton’s research suggests teachers support their students in the classroom for summer reading success through preparation, promotion and practice.
Research on the summer slide and summer reading has more examples of recent New Zealand and overseas research.
Prepare students for summer reading
Prepare students for holiday reading towards the end of each term as well as for the summer break. Remind your students that holiday reading is important for their ongoing learning. Explain how classroom strategies for reading used during the year still apply over the holidays. For young readers, use the acronym WALT (We Are Learning To) to encourage them to:
- be responsible for our own reading
- read independently.
Where to get books from
Talk to your students about where they can find books to read over the holidays, for example from:
- your school library or classroom
- secondhand bookshops
- the local public library.
Encourage use of the public library
Encourage students and their families to join and visit the public library over the summer break. Talk about how you use the public library, show your library card, talk about when you visit, and how you avoid overdue books.
Take students to visit the library on a class visit. Using public transport from the home suburb to the public library encourages older students to visit the library independently.
Other ideas to help prepare students for summer reading
- Explore how to choose 'just right' books — not too easy, not too hard — connecting to their interests and reading levels.
- Work closely with your school library team on how to get books into students’ hands over summer. Enlist their help to find suitable books that align with your students' reading interests.
- Providing parents with information and advice about avoiding the summer slide.
Helping children choose books for reading pleasure
School libraries — encourage summer reading
Families — keeping your child or teen reading over summer
Promote summer reading
Active, enthusiastic, regular promotion of books and reading is part of every classroom’s reading culture and essential for creating readers. Classroom-instilled reading habits, positive attitudes and strategic approaches to reading help support and sustain students’ reading through the holidays.
Get students to share, discuss and recommend books to each other
- Introduce 'book talk' — a time to talk about authors and titles, genres and series, share favourites and identify 'read-alikes'.
- Set up online opportunities for book sharing and recording on a blog, website or social account, such as LibraryThing or Goodreads.
- Create e-reading role models, with a variety of people sharing how and why they are readers.
Make reading its own reward
Keep holiday reading fun. This means no 'work', such as writing book reviews. Instead, children could keep simple records of their reading through sites, such as Goodreads, or taking note of author/title/star-rating. Help students set some personal goals, or make a 'contract'. For example, to read for a certain amount of time each day
If our aim is to encourage students to read for pleasure, research shows extrinsic rewards, such as challenges with prizes, can decrease children's motivation.
When we communicate to children that the only reason to read is to earn a reward or grade, we fail to impart reading’s true value. Reading is its own reward and it bestows immeasurable gifts on readers.
— Donalyn Miller, Reading is its own reward: Summer reading and the 7th annual #bookaday challenge
Other things you can do
- Give students ideas for sharing reading recommendations by listing 10 of your own favourite authors/ titles/series, 10 of your friends’ favourites, 10 of the class favourites, 10 most popular authors borrowed from your school library.
- Talk about reading a range of material, such as magazines, comics and non-fiction.
Practise reading for pleasure
As a teacher, you're already likely to be building a classroom culture that values, practises and celebrates reading for pleasure.
To help develop and cement the reading habit, allocate class time for reading each day. This helps students build reading stamina and make links between school sustained silent reading (SSR) and home-reading time.
Help students know and address their reading blocks
Help students identify blocks or distractions that stop them reading and give them strategies to address these issues. These could include choosing a particular time or special place to read, or if a student is stuck thinking about:
- trying another book
- talking about it with someone, or
- using the skip forward or re-read techniques.
The emphasis is on reading for pleasure. It's important this doesn't become 'schoolwork' or a chore.
Other strategies to try
- Adopt a class slogan, for example, 'read a little every day' or 'read your age plus 10 minutes a day'.
- Join or form a school reading team. Collaborate with the school librarian and teachers in your school (from other subject areas if in a secondary school) to ensure messages and approaches are cohesive.
- With younger children, talk about how to look after books and how to remember to bring them back to help avoid any concerns they may have about losing books over the holidays.
Teachers creating readers
Read and know children's and YA literature
For me, summer reading slump refers to my prone posture on the couch, reading happily.
— "The Book Whisperer" by Donalyn Miller
Teachers who read are the best reading role models, demonstrating how they value reading for pleasure in their professional and personal. When you read and share your love of books in the classroom, you can engage students in thoughtful book discussions, encourage them to read more and use books more creatively in your classroom.
Teachers need to read children’s and young-adult literature to be effective teachers of literacy and reading role models. Summer reading provides an opportunity to catch up with what students are reading, what has been well-reviewed and recommended, and potential read-alouds for the following year. The Guardian article Why teachers should read more children’s books refers to research that found reading for pleasure had implications for a teacher’s own well-being:
Teachers who read for pleasure have better book knowledge and feel more confident, calm and stress-free in the classroom
— Why teachers should read more children’s books
Talk to the school library support teachers about providing recommendations and books to borrow over the summer. Keeping a record of your reading can be a useful reminder when chatting about your reading with other staff and students.
Use our summer reading log (pdf, 518KB) for your own use or to share with students.
School staff as readers
Target students for reading support
You may want to target specific students for support, to maintain hard-won reading gains. These students may include students and families who have participated in the Reading Together® programme or been through reading recovery.
Avid readers may also be a possible target group. Your school could supply enough reading material to support their reading habit over the holidays.
Ohaeawai School linked holiday reading into their student librarian recruitment programme, encouraging eager potential student librarians to:
- borrow and read widely over the summer
- record their reading, which then formed part of their application for student librarian positions in the new year.
Reading Together programme
Plan a summer reading initiative in your school
Some questions to consider if you are planning a summer reading initiative include:
- Is the 'summer slump/summer slide' an issue for your students?
- Do you have data about end-of-year and beginning-of-year student reading levels, and if so what is it telling you?
- Is anything being done already?
- Who could you discuss this with at your school?
- What approach might work for your students, your school and your community?
Plan a summer reading initiative
Using evidence to inform practice
Being strategic about gathering evidence before, during and after any holiday reading initiative will help show how what you did made a difference. It will also inform future practice and initiatives.
Measuring the impact of summer reading