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Summer Reading & Nanci Turner Steveson
Our main topic today is summer reading! For me, my school year up here in New York doesn’t end for another five weeks but lots of my friends are already wrapping up their school year so I thought it would be a good time to discuss this topic. And whether you are a parent, or a librarian, or a teacher there will be something in today’s show that you will find useful.
First, we’ll talk about defining the purpose of summer reading and the importance of planning. Then we’ll talk about ways to ensure access to books for kids and end with some fun summer reading ideas.
The first thing to really think about is what purpose summer reading should serve for kids. In my view, summer reading should be all about fun and free choice and continuing to build a community of readers. And not earning trinkets. The prize should be the book, the shared experience, not some cheap piece of junk from a chintzy looking treasure box!
Whatever you decide to do to encourage summer reading, please keep the focus on fun and not guilt tripping kids into reading. As we approach the end of the school year and kids dive into busy or unpredictable schedules, maintaining that reading momentum is key. If you are like me and saying good-bye to outgoing students, it feels a little like they are fledging and you’ll be encouraging more reading independence. Or, maybe you are thinking about activities with incoming students. In that case, your goal might be to welcome them into a new community of readers and to start to build or maintain those relationships heading into a new year.
One of the most effective things that you can do to get kids reading over the summer is to help them make some reading plans before school ends and to fill up their To Be Read list with titles they are excited about. Suggested book lists can be nice – especially if they are created by other students. (You know how it is – kids are going to listen to each other way more than they’re going to listen to us!)
If there are some movies coming out over the summer that are based on books, definitely mention those and maybe show the trailers. For example, I know there’s a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie and Captain Underpants and then Wonder is coming out in the fall.
One thing that I like to do is to try to get kids hooked into a new series right at the end of the year so they are motivated to read the rest of the books into the summer. My school has started using the Units of Study from the TCRWP and our final unit in 5th grade is Fantasy Book Clubs. So they are totally getting hooked on Gregor the Overlander and Wings of Fire and Warriors and already starting to research the sequels.
And – speaking of Fantasy, have you seen the new Wizarding World Book Club being launched this summer through Pottermore? That sounds awesome and every year I have three or four kids who are just getting started in the Harry Potter series so I feel like I relive reading that series every year. I’ll include a link in the show notes for all of my fellow Potterheads to check out. So making a great TBR list is one major part of planning summer reading.
Another part is to think about some Summer Challenges. Maybe share the Reading Without Walls Challenge which encourages readers to expand their reading horizons by reading a book about a character who doesn’t look or live like you, a book about a topic you don’t know about and a book in a format you don’t normally read for fun. Scholastic also has a Summer Reading Bingo Card that might be fun to print out and try with spaces like Read With a Flashlight, Read Outside, or Read Aloud to an Adult – those are fun but what might be even cooler would be to have kids design their own Summer Reading Bingo cards!
One last word about planning. Definitely share your own summer reading plans with your students and your kids. They are really more likely to follow through if you join them and make your commitment public.
Alright so you now know your purpose and you and the kids have a plan. Let’s talk about helping them have access to those amazing books they want to read. One great idea that I know a lot of teachers and librarians are doing is to coordinate a Book Swap at the end of the year where kids bring in books from home, share them in some central spot and then take what they want.
Another idea for teachers is to give each child in your class a book as an end-of-the-year present. I did this for the first time ever last year. I went to my local Scholastic Warehouse during their year-end sale, and I picked out a book that I knew the child had not yet read but I thought they would really like. And I brought with me my clipboard of Status of the Class sheets from the entire year so I had a record of exactly what they had read and I had a decent idea of what they would like. Then I added a personalized note inside, wrapped each one up, and added a Krazy Straw and a some ribbon. Now, depending on your class size or your budget, that is not always an option. When I taught in a middle school with over 60 students, I just couldn’t do that. Now, I have just one class and also I don’t buy lots of other things so I can splurge a little at the end of the year.
Another way to get more books into kids hands over the summer is to open up your classroom library or the school library over the summer. Some schools I know have library hours once a week. Some handle the issue of access by letting each child take out ten books over the summer. If you can do this, I think it’s a fabulous idea. Why let the books just sit around?
However, if that is not possible or you’re not there yet another thing you can do is send home a resource sheet to let parents know where they can get books over the summer. List the locations of local libraries, of any Little Free Libraries in the area, and also the links to online places where they access books and articles. Definitely don’t forget about digital reading. Places like Wonderopolis or Newsela or any other online databases or subscription site they use during the school year. Often those passwords will work right over the summer. And don’t forget to plug the audio books! Sometimes a summer trip is the perfect time to try out an audio book.
Bringing books out into the community is another fantastic way to get more books out to more kids. You could set up one or more Little Free Libraries near the school. A lot of my local libraries are placing satellite Little Free Libraries around in various parks. If you’re up for a bit of planning – and maybe it won’t happen this summer but put it in the back of your mind for next year – a bookmobile would be another great method of outreach and making sure that every kid can bump into some books over the summer! Julie, a librarian friend of mine, took a bookmobile out to a local breakfast spot on the weekends. A local ballpark where they have summer rec games going on would be another great spot. I’m thinking of summer festivals and 4th of July spots or the Farmer’s Market!
Basically, you want to make sure kids have books in their hands before they leave school and know exactly where to go to get more.
8 Summer Projects & Activities
Let’s talk about some cool summer projects and activities that you can do with students or your own kids. Here are eight ideas for summer reading projects:
- Have students write a letter or postcard to you over the summer telling you about a book they loved. You can supply a template if you want and a pre stamped and self-addressed envelope before the end of school.
- Do a Library Crawl! I chatted with you about this back in January on Episode 14, but my daughters and I challenged ourselves to hit 16 libraries during the summer of 2016. And we posted pictures on social media along the way, included some Little Free Libraries, and it was a lot of fun. This idea is more geared toward parents but you might find a way to do something similar as a teacher or librarian.
- Host a meetup at your local library or bookstore. Set a few dates ahead of time and join your students for a quick get-together to share what you’ve been reading and pick out some new titles. Usually libraries have summer programs going on, so you could time those meetups to match the library schedule.
- Meet at school for a Breakfast & Book Swap! Make some pancakes, chat about books, and get some ideas of what to read next.
- Share your reading on Social Media. You could encourage kids to share pics of their books on Snapchat or Twitter or Instagram and maybe use a school hashtag. Also – if you use Google Classroom or Seesaw, often students can still log-in to use those over the summer. So, why not take advantage of that and continue to share what you’re reading through June, July, and August?
- Summer Book Clubs! If you have multiple copies of the same book, put together a book club that meets a couple times over the summer.
- Is an idea called Books on Blankets that I first saw on Stacey Reidmiller’s site Literacy for Big Kids. And basically, they host a get-together once a week over the summer with a read aloud, popsicles, and kids get a free book! Families bring a blanket and sit out on the grass and enjoy a great story together.
- Is a similar idea but instead of having a read aloud at your school, do a read aloud station at, say, your local Farmer’s Market. It doesn’t have to be for the whole day – maybe just half an hour! Or really, any place where lots of kids gather over the summer. Just gather some books in a totebag, lay out a beach blanket, put up a sign, and start reading!
You may not be ready to take on some of these ideas, yet. I am definitely not quite ready for some of them! But, every year I feel like I’m adding another piece. But – please keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything yourself. I certainly would find it hard to commit to going to my school once a week for the entire summer. But, I could get together with some my colleagues and some PTO members and we could each take one week.
My challenge to you and to myself is to find one area where you could encourage more pleasure reading this summer. And I know you’ll get just as much out of it as your kids will.
And of course, I want to hear about your summer reading plans and ideas. You can tag me on Twitter, Instagram, and now Facebook – our handle is @books_between or email me at email@example.com and I’d love to see what you’ve got going on this summer!
Interview: Nanci Turner Steveson
Today I am excited to welcome Nanci Turner Steveson to the podcast. She is the author of Swing Sideways and the newly released Georgia Rules. We chat about why she set her new middle grade novel in Vermont, the theatre, and her favorite kind of pie. Take a listen.
Welcome to the podcast!
I heard that your first novel, Swing Sideways, was nominated for the Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Award! Congratulations!
Your second middle grade novel, Georgia Rules, is released today. I am so honored to be chatting with you on your launch day!
Tell us about Georgia Rules – what is this story about?
At the beginning of the book, the catalyst that prompts Maggie and her mom to move to Vermont is that her step-father has decided to divorce them and have a boyfriend move in. And I just want to say that situation of a family breaking up and one of the parents moving on to a same-sex relationship is becoming more common – or at least more openly acknowledged. And I am glad that it’s in this book – I think Georgia Rules is the first book I’ve read that’s shown a breakup in that way.
There is this tension between the more formal “Georgia Rules” that Magnolia has been brought up with in Atlanta and the more casual, country vibe of Vermont.
Which one is more in line with your upbringing?
I loved the Vermont setting – it reminded a lot of Central New York actually.
Have you ever lived in Vermont?
The Parker family is known for their pies.
What is your favorite pie?
You’ve mentioned that you got a late start in publishing and that your first novel, Swing Sideways, wasn’t published until you were older.
Were you writing all along and just stuck with it until you had a breakthrough or did you also come to writing later as well?
What drew you to writing middle grade?
I’ve noticed that you are involved in the theatre! =
What do you do – act? Or more technical aspects?
What sort of chapter books did you like to read when you were a kid?
What about have you been reading lately?
Okay – that wraps up our show this week. If you have a question about how to connect middle grade readers to books they will love or an idea about a guest we should have or a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.
Also, this past week I was honored to be a guest on the What Book Hooked You? podcast where I chatted with Brock Shelly about The Book Whisperer and lots of other things. I’ll link to that in the shownotes if you want to check it out.
Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of the show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com. And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.
Thanks again and see you in two weeks! Bye!