Sunday, September 7, 2014

Access & Summer Reading

I've taught for the past 21 years and at three different schools.  At my first school where I taught for 9 years, we didn't have summer reading. We didn't do fire drills either.  In 2001 I began grappling with summer reading as both a teacher and now as a literacy coach.  Access to summer reading books is one of my greatest issues or concern. What are the ways we communicate our purpose and titles to the community?  What are the ways that we support struggling readers and English language learners?  How do we give students physical access to books and how do we ensure that students can comprehend the books once they read them? If we don't consider issues related to access and work systemically to remove the barriers of access, students who won't read, can't.

At both sites where I have worked we set-up school-wide summer reading so that students read two books. Both sites allowed for student choice for one of the titles.  Choice in my mind removes some of the greatest barriers. They key is that students know how to choose a book and have it in their hands to do so.  In a literacy-rich classroom, you continue to feed the readers and they are able to choose. I think, however, this choosing is a challenge for readers, who just pick something that they have read in the past to get by.  More work should be done through the media specialist or in the classrooms during the last weeks of school to help kids make a thoughtful choice as they head into the summer.

The tricky part is the "required" book option.  At my first school, the teachers chose 4-6 high interest required titles, appropriate for a range of readers. The problem here was that the teachers didn't read all of the required titles  (a different blog post).  At the school where I currently work, we have a One Book\One Grade Level as our required book.  This set-up allows for students to have a common conversation and assessment. But I, however, think that we can do better in our required choices.  If we are requiring a title, we should consider the following questions:  Is is available in not only English, but the predominant native language of most of the students at your school? Is it available in audio format?  I am not sure that we are so conscious in our choosing. Considering these questions not only begins to remove access issue for our students, but it also allows the parents of our students to be a part of this process.

How ensure access to your your program?

  • Book Fair at the school site with the titles
  • Flyers at freshman orientation in February & sent to feeder schools at the end of the year
  • 150 copies of required titles for each grade level available  in the media center for check out
  • Loan sets of the summer reading books to teachers doing the summer school programs
  • Flyers in the native languages of your students
  • Connect-ed phone calls home to remind parents
  • Signing summer reading contracts at the end of the school year
  • Providing flyers in your guidance office for registration
  • Providing flyers in the main office
  • Connecting with your local library
  • Using social media as an outlet to promote summer reading
  • Connecting with your local bookstore to promote & provide titles
  • Upper grade students promoting the titles to younger students
  • Meeting during the summer at school or in the community to discuss the books
  • Survey students about summer reading
  • Have students help choose summer reading books
  • Ensure that you have up-to-date information on the school website

What happens when you remove access issues and students still don't choose to read?  I'll consider that question/barrier/challenge next week!

What are ways you ensure access to your students for summer reading?


  1. Hi Beth,
    I don't know if I would consider a summer reading contract and access issue. That seems an expectation and I do wonder about its purpose (another issue though). One access lesson I gave last year and will again after school one day soon is to show students how to connect their mobile devices to the county library. When I pulled a book up in Overdrive last week, I was surprised at how many students did not know that you could get digital copies of books from library and download them to kindles, iPads, cell phones and the like. Was just thinking about the plumbing truck turned book mobile story Richard Allington shared at a conference last year and in looking for it came across this annotated bibliography--thought you might like it:

  2. Access to books really is a problem for many students. I have a student whose mom "works at the library," but I can't get this student (a senior) to look for a book using our school's online card catalogue. I don't think she knows how, and she won't let me show her. Later, I'll give a lesson on this to the whole class.

    Good list of suggestions. SYNC free audiobooks is another wonderful resource for summer reading.

    Here's my #summerseries post for this week:

  3. Beth,

    We don't have required summer reading and access is always one of the issues that comes up. We have limited access to libraries and everyone is using the same school/base library. We do have access to online books, but again, that's limited - one copy to be shared by all members. Not ideal. And what about the many families who are moving during the summer (as many of the change of duty stations happen during the summer)? How do we communicate with the new students and make sure they have access to specific books during a move.

    I do think choice is one solution. It is definitely a complicated issue. I don't think it's going to be perfect for everyone, so I'm always questioning what will benefit the most students and do the least amount of hard to any student.


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