Summer Reading and Learning for Teachers by Clare Landrigan & Penny Kittle

Jamie shows up early for class and wraps himself around a Matt de la Pena novel. You have heard a story like his before: he’s never been a reader, is not interested in novels (or grades), but is now putting in extra time to read.


It’s not the book club he’ll be meeting with later this week that has brought him to class, book in hand, thirty minutes before it is scheduled to start. It’s not his teacher. It’s not high standards or a rubric. What puts him in a chair, hands folded across the spine of a paperback is Truth.


Matt de la Pena writes characters Jamie believes in. Jamie experiences life and death, tragedy and possibility, and more important than anything: his own curiosity suddenly uncorked while reading The Living. There is truth about life in the pages, so Jamie keeps turning them. Two things inspire Jamie to read: first, the book; and second, the talk about his thinking with his book club, both in class and online.


This summer The Book Love Foundation is gathering a tsunami of teachers (760+ as of this morning) into one across-the-world book club. We will read together, deeply think together, and laugh and wonder together as a K-12 community, dedicated to being better teachers of young people. Dedicated to change.


Like all of you, we have been devastated by the twin markers of embedded racism in our culture this week: the murder of George Floyd while in the custody of White police officers in Minneapolis, and the Central Park harassment of a Black man by a White woman. As Dave Pell said in his weekly newsletter, “The more we test, the more sick people we find. The more we video, the more murdering of Black men we see.” What has happened is not a Black people problem; they are victims. White people need to deeply understand the history we were never taught and work to change the systems we are in. 82% of America’s teachers are White women, so we must be the change we wish to see in the world. The system will not change itself. That change begins with our own education.


This summer teachers and leaders are gathering online to learn from teachers and authors of color, and from each other. Over seven weeks we’ll learn from (at least) 20 authors, illustrators, and educators in live interviews. We’ll talk about books and our role in creating lifelong, empowered readers. How do we cultivate the genius in every child? What is an equity framework for learning? We can make schools  equitable for all children—and it begins in our classrooms. It begins with our learning.


We will return to school this fall (in whatever form that takes us and our students) empowered to address equity, access, and student engagement with reading in our school’s curriculum. All of this for less than $10 a week! There truly is no better bargain for your ongoing professional learning and joy as a teacher. Every dollar you spend supports a classroom library in the U.S. and Canada. We have hundreds of teachers who have applied for grants to build inclusive classroom libraries this year, and we are determined to support as many as we can.


Since launching in 2013, The Book Love Foundation has remained committed to putting books in the hands of students. Students who need worlds to escape into. Students who need richly realized books about people who share their experiences. Students who need books that teach them that their value is derived from their minds and hearts. All students need books that show them how to be empathetic, strong, wise, and independent.


The Book Love Foundation has always imagined a future where books are abundant and every student can find a book that sparks a lifelong love of reading. We know that in order to make this dream a reality we need to disrupt the canon of our curriculum and the inventory in our classroom libraries to include all voices.


This year our focus is on a curated collection of books, called Gracie’s List that explore empathy and understanding of LGBTQ, a commitment to social justice, and a deep understanding of mental health. This list was created to honor Gracie King, daughter of YA author A.S. King. We join Gracie’s family in a mission to assure that every student has access to books “that start conversations about things that are important to the inner-self and the outside world.” (King Family, 2019)


Won’t you join us this year? Invite a colleague? A school leader? Help us help teachers reach readers.