I wish I had another couple of weeks with my students.
I know that’s counterintuitive – often teachers are counting down the days until that first glorious lazy summer morning. We dream of sipping our coffee slowly, while it’s still hot, and of eating breakfast at an actual table instead of during the drive to school or even during the break between our first and second classes of the day.
I look forward to those things, too, but I still wish I had a few more days with my students to really get them geared up for their summer reading.
In a way, we’ve been preparing for summer all year. They have been developing healthy reading lives, learning to read independently, to choose their own books, and to have rich discussions about what they’ve read.
But I know summertime is when some good habits slide, when schedules change from week to week, and when routines can be scarce.
It’s when fragile reading lives can falter, and I want to encourage my students for just a few more days, reminding them that they, too, are readers.
We’ve focused on creating robust next reads lists, most often through daily book talks. We’ve book talked titles that can be found in our school’s library and in my classroom library. Books that students can have in their hands before the end of the class period.
But for the last few weeks I’ve tried something a little different. I’ve chosen books that we don’t have in our school library collection, and that I don’t have in my classroom library. (One unique aspect of teaching internationally is that we get shipments once per year. I can’t wait for next fall when we will get tons of new titles in both our school library and our classroom libraries! Waiting is the hardest part… but it will be so worth it!) For these booktalks, though, I’ve chosen titles that can be found in airport bookstores, in county libraries back in the States, and of course, online.
I have booktalked new-to-us titles that many students have never seen before, and they are adding these titles to their next reads lists, which they keep in the notes app on their phones. This way, when they are traveling, out of their normal routines this summer, and they find themselves needing a book, they can reach into their pockets and find those lists of books they knew they would like.
I’ve encouraged my classes to download the kindle app onto their phones and other devices so they can access books and read anywhere. I’ve told them that if they are traveling to the US, their local libraries will have many, if not all, of these titles. If they don’t have access to a library or bookstore, downloading the titles is pretty simple. It’s exciting to think that their healthy reading lives can and will extend into the summer months.
We’re keeping a running list of titles both in my classroom and in the hall. These lists have been added to already, and are far from comprehensive, but students are looking at them, recording titles, and making reading plans.
Girl in Pieces has gotten a lot of attention from my 9th and 10th graders, and some of my 9th grade boys can’t wait to read Ball Don’t Lie.
You might be surprised by the mention of the Anne of Green Gables series, but with the Netflix show Anne with an E recently released, it’s gotten some renewed interest, and I think showing some kids that they can enjoy literature that’s a hundred years old serves a good purpose.
Half Broke Horses brought an interesting question: “Is this book about the good grandma? Or the creepy one?” A couple students who had already read The Glass Castle were glad to hear that it was about the nice grandma, and added the title to their lists.
By reminding my students that they can read anywhere, access books with 3G or wifi, and that there are some amazing books out there that they’ve never heard of, I think I’m giving them some useful encouragement.
By reminding them that it’s easy to find a time and place to read, I think fewer of them will slide over the summer, and those that do might slide less than they would have otherwise.
I think the two main keys are access and a plan. The plan is as simple as a next reads list, and the access has to be worldwide.