My boss and I exchange books to read and last year he gave me The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*#&. The message was that there are only so many things that you can care about before you diminish your capacity to really do the work or care. I really care about cultivating lifelong readers or supporting the ones that are already there. This means that one of the things I give an F about is the reading that students do over the summer.
By having a summer reading program I hope that the message we send is that we value reading in our community. Our goal first and foremost is to push kids to read for pleasure. I know that sounds like an oxymoron. In my workout life I have an accountability group that pushes me to get better especially I when I am not feeling it and I know that my people help me get there. Teachers are one of a group of people that help students get there as readers. We have the power to do that every day in our classroom and the summer is a time where we can strive to do that as well, a summer reading program can do that. I’m not talking about punishing kids who don't read during the summer. I believe that summer is a time that readers will read, but challenging students to read who might not normally do so is a part of cultivating readers. With that in mind, we seriously revised our summer reading plan last year and are currently in the midst of tweaking it now.
There are some groans as to why are we still talking about this, but revising is part of the teaching process. We’ve implemented a few versions. Our first success was our initial implementation about a decade ago when we developed our One Book, One Grade level modeled about the One Book, One Community program that was popular. To learn more about that process, you can check out Jennifer Buehler’s Teaching Reading with YA Literature: Complex Texts, Complex Lives. We used Denise Ousley’s Brown Bag Exam to assess the readers This design allowed teachers to start the year with a common title and the assessment allowed even a student who didn’t read the book an opportunity to penalty-free participate in the assessment.
Over the last few years our summer reading design evolved into something that I didn’t quite like and with which teachers were frustrated. We worked really hard last spring to challenge ourselves as grade level ELA teams to rethink summer reading. Each PLC kind of morphed/riffed off of the conversation and we developed something amazing…more to come about that in a future post.
We started our PLC conversations discussing about the possibility of using the free audiobooks that are available on SYNC during the summer. But since we surveyed our students before coming up with a final plan, and based on those results our ideas changed. (Although we still encourage students to use those books for their choice books). We were able to get approximately 1100 of the 3200 at our school to respond to our summer reading survey and the result challenged our team to rethinking about our students as summer readers.
We learned that we need to add more interesting books so we ensured that we increased the number of titles on our choice list and ensured that a variety of genres were represented.
We learned that we need to choice was the most important value to these students so we made sure that we offered a range of limited choices for our first required book and unlimited choice for our second book.
We learned that student discussion would be the best way to assess students and our implementation of this piece provided the most magical moments this summer.
As we move into our discussion this year, we will keep the lessons that we learned last year and continue to keep student voice as part of the process. Next Tuesday, I'll share the what we gave to students and the results of our design.
I would love to hear back from you about how your community helps readers thrive during the summer.