Summer Reading for the School Year

August 27th, 2013 | by Stephan Maldonado
Summer Reading for the School Year

Summer Reading Lists

At the end of each school year, students are given reading lists to keep them learning throughout the summer. However, summer reading assignments don’t often yield much more than a book report that’s turned in on the first day of school. How can students be more engaged with the books they read during the summer? In this post, we will discuss creative ways to approach summer reading assignments so that students can take what they learn from these books into the classroom and continue to engage with them throughout the school year.

Schools are not the only ones to assign summer reading lists. Local libraries and bookstores encourage students to read throughout the summers, too, and many of them provide reading lists. Due, in part, to the recent success of such young adult franchises as The Hunger Games, Twilight, and others, many of these organizations gear their summer reading lists towards adolescents.

The issue with ensuring that students remain engaged with their summer reading may not be that students lack the resources to access books, but that the books they read are quickly forgotten once the school year begins. How can students be encouraged to continue thinking critically about books from school year to summer to school year? It can start at the basic level of actually compiling the reading lists.

Reading lists can be organized by genres, target audience (depending on grade and reading levels), time period, or even the country of the authors’ origins. One other way to ensure that students are enthusiastic about their summer assignments is to involve them in the compiling of the list from the very beginning. Under their teachers’ guidance, students can help choose relevant books that interest them–that they not only want to read, but that they will also learn from. These student-generated lists can even be passed on to the incoming class, which can be encouraging to younger students who are hesitant to dive into new or unfamiliar books.

Reading Beyond the Summer

Summer reading assignments that entail writing a book summary or analysis may prove that students read their assignments, but they tend to be quickly forgotten after the first week of school. There are, however, other projects that help students apply the critical thinking skills they develop while reading and encourage them to continue to think about the books into the school year. Some ideas include:

  • Having students write an alternate ending to the story or rewrite one chapter from the perspective of another character.
  • Having students write a review, as opposed to a summary. This encourages them to express themselves, while teaching them how to articulate their opinions. Allow them the flexibility to be honest and opinionated.
  • Choosing a theme from the book and organizing a debate in which students argue for or against the topic.
  • Having students watch the movie adaptations of the books on their list doing a comparison.

There are as many summer reading assignment possibilities as there are books, and there’s virtually no end to the different ways you can engage your students. The important thing is to encourage them to continue thinking critically, even after the book has ended and the assignment has been submitted. Working your students’ book lists into your curriculum as much as possible and ensuring that summer reading doesn’t end at the beginning of the school year is an excellent way to ensure the continued development of your students’ critical thinking skills.

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