May Best Practice of the Month - Encourage Summer Reading

Jeannie.Standal's picture

What's on your summer reading list? Recreational reading? Some serious reading? Tackling a project read (War and Peace, anyone)?  Whatever reading is on deck for your summer break, share those reading plans with your students, and ask about the books are on their summer reading lists.

The data shows that students who don't read over the summer can lose as much as three months of reading progress. In fact, summer reading has been shown to be just as effective as summer school to close the summer reading gap, especially for lower income students. 

So, in the spirit of sparking exciting summer reading adventures for your students this summer, here are a few suggestions and strategies  to help them avoid the dreaded summer slide:

  • Spend time in May booktalking lots and lots of different books.  It might even be helpful to supply a list of the books being showcased for students to remember titles that caught their attention.  They can then use it to help select good books at the library.
  • Work with the local public library to get kids signed up for the summer reading program.  Perhaps the public library could arrange a sign up for summer reading at the school suppplying reading logs and everything else kids need to participate.  Be sure the students know about all the fun to be had with activities, prizes and parties at the library!  If all students have a reasonable opportunity to participate, perhaps the school could offer further incentive with a prize, party or other recognition in the fall for those that took part in summer reading.
  • Consider keeping some summer hours at the school library; it could be just a few mornings a week. Students that live close to school, but far from the public library could use the school library to participate in the public library's summer reading program.  This can work especially well if the school is a summer free lunch site.
  • For struggling readers, audio books might do the trick - they can listen and read along, making the story more of a pleasure and less of a struggle. Many libraries have both audio and print copies of juvenile and YA titles. Some avid readers enjoy audio books because they can "read" while taking care of less worthy activities, like chores or running errands. Turn teens on to YASync for free audio book titles throughout the summer. The Odyssey Award winners are exceptional audio books for children and young adults and a rich source for recommendations.
  • Set up an honor collection in a sheltered location outside the school.  Such a collection is not part of the regular school collection and can be created with donated books. Little Free Libraries are an example of this type of collection, but it could also be as simple as a storage bin of books outside the front doors of the school.  Honor collections are a low-stress, low-effort way to make books available to students.
  • Ask the principal to do a few mid-summer robocalls to check in on reading progress. S/he could ask students to call and leave a message telling the principal what they are reading.  Another inexpensive, relatively effortless strategy to keep reading on the minds of students and parents.
  • Inspire students to read by making them laugh and by challenging them.  This school had a fun challenge idea and the teachers appear to be having a pretty good time, too.  Your school might be able to do its own lip dub - your students will love it!
  • Recruit parents to your cause!  Provide some free resources for them to give their kids fun and enriching activities over the summer. Here are a few suggestions:
    • Start With A Book at has practical information, tips and resources for parents who want to inspire kids to read and instill a love of reading.
    • explores many interesting questions like "why do owls hoot?" and "where is the tallest building?" and "how do you break a bad habit?" for students in Pre-K through 12th grade.  Kids can even send in their own wonders!
    • TumbleBooks and offer online storytime, rhymes, plays and other activities that will be a hit with the PreK-Grade 1 set.  It works well as a companion to in-person storytime with a caregiver and is available to all Idahoans through their public library or at

Trumpet the importance of summer reading to parents and students every chance you get to keep kids reading over the summer and kick the summer slide out of school! 


 Allington, Richard L. & McGill-Franzen, Ann (Ed.).  Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap.  New York: Teachers College Press, 2013.

Walker, Rachael Worthington. Getting Kids to Read Over the Summer. National Education Association website at  Viewed 5/5/15.