Preparing Children for the Summer Ahead

With summer fast approaching, you are probably starting to think about ways to support your students’ reading and writing development through the summer months. Many of you have read Richard Allington and Ann McGill-Franzen’s article on the dangers of summer reading setback (http://www.jstor.org/stable/20440508?origin=JSTOR-pdf) and know that summer can jeopardize the strides you have made across the school year, especially for your most vulnerable students. So here are 5 ideas for supporting your students even when they are not with you!

  1. Fill kids’ reading baggies one last time! The last week of school is a natural time to go through your classroom library looking for books that are ready for retirement and what better way to retire them than right into your students’ back packs? Don’t have enough books to go around? Start a book drive; find internet reproducibles; get librarians to donate old books too—collecting and redistributing books is a great way of getting books into kids’ hands. Any book you give a child is likely to be read again and again, especially if the child chooses it himself, so put the books out and let your kids shop.
    • Of course, you will want to try to fill those book baggies with “just right” books, since most children do not have access to well leveled books over the summer. There are many websites where you can find leveled and reproducible texts that you can copy and give to kids. But, if you can’t gather enough books at the right levels don’t despair. A quick book introduction can really make a difference in ensuring that children can read even somewhat difficult books with accuracy and understanding. Reading aloud some of the books before the school year ends will peek your students’ interest and give them a little extra support to boot.
  2. Fill their writing folders too! Many teachers spend the last week of school helping students dream up the different kinds of writing they can make over the summer. Give your students a full range of paper choice, or a brand new writing notebook, and then let the planning begin. Ask your students about their summer plans and have them imagine how writing will fit in. Are they going to camp this summer? Suggest that they will need a guidebook to remember all the names of their councilors and fellow campers. Then ask, “What kind of paper (or structure) would work best for that?” Or perhaps they are going home to another country—China or Honduras or Pakistan—encourage them to write a travel log or a book of personal stories that they can share with friends in the fall. Your children do not need to start these writing projects just yet, but getting the ideas, planning with paper, setting goals and thinking of ways to use or share the writing make it all the more likely that children will write during their months away from school.
  3. Take a hike! (…to the library that is). Public libraries have so many programs to keep kids reading and engaged over the summer and yet year after year, we hear that children are not taking part. This year give the library a little endorsement. Plan a trip to the library. Ask a librarian to do a small presentation about all that the library has to offer (like computers and movies, too). Then have your students find their favorite books—knowing where they are shelved will help children feel at home when they return without you. Remember it is not just your students you need to sell the library to—it is parents, too. Invite every parent to join you—this is one time when too many parents on a trip is preferable. If most parents in your community work during the day, see if you can have a night at the library. This will make it more of an event and will open everyone’s eyes to all the library has to offer. And remember, don’t leave without signing kids and parents up for library cards!
  4. Join the club. A book club is a great way for students to stay in touch over the summer. Book clubs are easy to start and are super fun. You can sponsor these clubs—offering to be a member yourself, have the PTA run them, or just get some parents together to be sponsors. Here are a few quick tips:
    • Help club members find a place to meet. They can meet at the library—librarians are happy to find them a good spot and can even get multiple copies of the books members choose to read—or they can rotate through the members’ homes.
    • Adding food to the plan can also add a layer of fun. If your club meets at members’ homes, have kids plan the food they will bring to each meeting. Local businesses are often happy to support literacy. Suggest to your students that they write a letter to the local pizza place or ice cream shop asking for a donation of a tasty treat for their book club meetings. Putting their persuasive writing skills to the test is just an added bonus…and who wouldn’t want to be part of a club that reads a book at the library and then walks to the ice cream shop for an after-club sweet?
  5. Make a newsletter. Just like you write newsletters to parents during the school year—you can start a summer newsletter. Fill it with news about community events, the upcoming school year, and of course the goings-on in the lives of classmates—birthdays, new siblings, trips. Let your students know that anyone who sends you information about their summer will be included in the updates you send. Show them a template for your letter to make it a reality. Have a section called “Publishing Party” and let your kids know that you will include any writing they send you. You can even get the first issue started before the school year ends. Have the children help you fill it with information about what they will do and where they will be. Just like Facebook and Twitter push adults to share, the newsletter can be a place to see what classmates are reading and writing over the summer months.

Summer is a time to daydream and nothing helps daydreaming more than reading and writing. Setting your kids up to plan for their summer reading and writing lives will not only maintain the strides they made this year, but it will help ensure that they have a summer full of fun and happy memories.