Creating Joyful Summer Reading Plans by Pernille Ripp

“Mrs. Ripp, did you know there is only 30 days left after today? “


He looks at me expectantly, clearly excited about the end of 7th grade and all that will happen during the summer.


“No more reading, no more school, just freedom…”


And I realize once again that although we have been working on creating passionate readers all year, there is still so much work to do.  That to help students keep the motivation up for reading, our summer reading plans really start at the beginning of the year, planting the seeds for what will hopefully help a child remember to make reading and books a part of their summer plans.  Yet, now it is May and summer beckons and there are still a few kids that need the extra help and convincing that perhaps, just perhaps, their summer will be so much better if there is a book mixed in here and there.


So what can we do in our classroom in the days leading up to summer to stoke the passion for summer reading?


We can figure out their reading plans.  I can’t help what I don’t know about so a quick survey asking them about when, where and what they will read gives me a quick peek into their frame of mind.  Is reading even a factor or is it something that will not happen once they leave us? Do they have actual ideas or will they leave it up to chance?


We can increase our book talks.  We are starting most classes with 30 second book talks, a quick, casual book talk written out on a notecard that all students give.  Every day, three students give their talk and I give one as well sharing our must reads for others to put on their to-be-read list.


We can do a best book of the year speech.  Every year, we end our year giving a one minute speech on the very best book we read that year.    Students are encouraged to write interesting titles down and I create a master list that is published on my blog for the world to see.  I always get new ideas for books to add to our to our library.


We can increase casual book talk time.  The casual conversations we have that lead to kids getting excited about the books other people are reading are vital for creating continued book excitement.  So have moments where students can just discuss their current read with no strings attached, no pressure.


We can partner with the school librarian.  While a partnership is necessary all year, now is the time to really step it up and get the kids in the library.  Which books are on display? Which books are the must reads? Which books can they check out over the summer? Also, discuss with your librarian to see if summer hours will be available for students to come in and check out books.


We can partner with our public library.  Since not all schools can have summer library hours, make sure you bring in someone from the public library to discuss the great events that they have going over the summer.  This is also a great time to remind students of just how much their public library has to offer overall.


We can give them all a book.  For the last few months, I have been collecting books to hand to my students on the last day of school.  While some may end up just collecting dust, I am hoping that by having them pick an exciting title and have it placed in their hands as a farewell gift that it will entice them to read.  


We can share their to-be-read lists.  All year, we have collected potential titles that crowd our to-be-read lists in our readers notebooks; summer is the real test of that reading list.  Have students take a picture and email it home to caregivers or parents. Scan the pages for them to send as a reminder during the summer. Do something other than just handing them the notebook, which inevitably ends up lost in their end of year shuffle.  Don’t let all those book talks and dreams for great reading go to waste.


And how about those at home?  What can parents and caregivers do to help kids stay reading over the summer?


Have your own to-be-read list.  Go book shopping with your kids and create a list of books you all hope to read this summer.  Browse the displays at the library or at book stores, look up the bestseller lists to see what is hot in literature right now.  Count down the days together for that sequel or amazing new book to be released. Build excitement for the act of reading together.


Visit places where books are present.  Build visits into the library, bookstores or even friends’ houses where there are books visible into your summer plans.  Seeing books within reach often entices reading and there is something about the promise of a brand-new crisp book that cannot help but be exciting.  And browse online as well. What are people sharing on the #BookADay thread? Which books are being shared on Instagram under hashtags like the one I use (#pernillerecommends)?


Make it social.  One of the biggest joys of summer is hanging out with people, so why not add books to it?  Perhaps every Sunday night is declared “Books and milkshakes” at your house? Perhaps you create book picnics or host a book club yourself.  Perhaps you engage in a friendly competition with each other to see who will finish their book first, no cheating. Reading can be a social event, don’t force it to be solitary all of the time.


Embrace audio books.  We do a lot of driving in the summer as we visit family, so audiobooks from the local library are a constant companion.  They cut down on our kids arguing, creates conversation, and become a part of our summer memories.


Create a summer routine.  One of the biggest things I discuss with those at home is to find a routine for summer reading and not leaving it to chance.  Is is that everybody reads before getting out of bed? Is it the last thing that happens at the end of the day? Create a drop-everything-and-read time and then abide by your own decisions and join in with your own books, because we know that children who see adults read, read more themselves, thanks Stephen Krashen.


Embrace real choice.  So your child wants to read the same book all summer?  Ok. So your child wants to read super easy books all summer?  Ok. So your child wants to read only one type of book all summer?  Ok. Summers are for great reading experiences, for having fun with your reading, for keeping the joy of reading alive.  We can work on challenging texts later.


Flood your home with books if possible.  We have books everywhere at our house, which is a privilege in itself. So if you can leave books wherever your kids are: the car, the bathroom, the living room, their rooms.   If you do not have access to a lot of books, ask the school for help, scour garage sales, or visit the library if possible.


Be invested and interested.  Ask genuine questions about their reading experiences.  Share your own. Embrace your reading slumps together and do something about them together.  Ask questions about what they plan on reading, whether they like the book or not, or what made them pick that book.  Keep it light but keep it constant.


Keep it joyful.  We often lose readers over the summer because it is seen as a chore, so keep it light, keep it fun.  Don’t assign journal prompts or summaries to go with it. Don’t make it homework, but instead revel in the joyful experience that reading a great book can be.


Reading is one of Pernille’s great loves of her life, along with her husband and four crazy kids.  Figuring out how to help students fall in love or remain in love with reading is one of her greatest challenges.  So much so that she decided to write a book with advice from her students on just that. Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child is meant to be practical advice, as well as inspiration of how to create meaningful reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English Block.