Saturday, July 25, 2015

Have You Done Your Summer Reading?

Whenever I run into students during the summer months, I always ask them, "Have you done your summer reading yet?"  As an English teacher, it is an obligatory question.  But summer reading doesn't have to be a chore or a snore.

Summertime is my opportunity to catch up on my reading.  As much as I like to read for entertainment, I can't squeeze it in during the school year. I've become a binge reader: devouring 100s of pages in a single sitting during holidays, breaks, and summer.  Two Christmases ago, I finished the first Game of Thrones book in 24 hours because I could not put it down.  This summer I'm binging on the escapism of historical fiction and sci-fi/fantasy.

So far this summer I've read...

On my list of texts to read...

When it comes to reading professional texts, on my list are...

If I keep up my current pace of finishing a book ever 2-3 days, I should be able to cross off the titles on my list during the last month of my summer break.  When I shared the titles I've read this summer via Facebook, my husband (who is not a reader) jokingly asked if I read, The Housekeeper.  I have not!  Nor have I read the other books in the series: The Laundress and Dishwasher Diaries. There isn't any time to clean when I have so many books to read! 

What books are on your list?  Please comment with your suggestions for fiction and nonfiction texts-- keep me reading so I can avoid cleaning!

All non-Honors track students are assigned to read the same book per grade during the summer.  The titles were selected based on budgetary constraints. We have some copies that can be checked out by students and all of the titles can be read online via a free digital text or thru Curriculet's platform. On the first full school day, all students take a test on their assigned title and the score goes in the gradebook. Over years of trying to find the best way to manage a summer reading program, this was the easiest and least painful method.  But, does summer reading have to be painful for students?

As the only 9th grade Honors English teacher in my district, I have complete control over the summer reading assignment and strategically assign texts and activities for completion.  I purposely chose texts that would engage the students and align with concepts taught throughout the upcoming school year (see my Writing Map and Reading Map). My students read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, Clive Barker's Abarat, and the school-assigned reading of John Steinbeck's The Pearl. Students are given paperback copies of Hobbit and Abarat, but are tasked with accessing a digital version of The Pearl.  Abarat and Hobbit balance each other: both a long epic texts that follow Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey steps, one with a female protagonist and the other feature a male protagonist.  While reading, students are to keep a reader's response chart, noting their observations and connections to the text.  I do not give a set number or length of entries because I want to see what the students will give me.  When we return to school, students will take a quiz on each of the titles to check for understanding and I will award them completion points for the chart.  We use the summer reading titles as a basis for learning about literary analysis and mentor texts for creative writing throughout the first marking period.

In addition to the fiction texts, my Honors students are also taking part in Curriculet's and USA Today's Summer Reading Challenge.  Students are to select at least 10 articles (I assigned them at least 10, but they can read more than that number if they want to win prizes) and answer the questions embedded in the text.  Each article is tagged with one Common Core Curriculum Standard and contains 3-4 questions that check for understanding using the lens of the standard.  Before my students ever set foot in my classroom, I am getting to know them as they show me when, how, what they are reading in Curriculet.  I can track their progress, see what articles they selected, and monitor their performance. I can see who is a procrastinator and who is an overachiever. I can use the data to create lessons that will bolster their weaknesses and meet their interests.  Students are motivated to read can also win prizes: folks who read at least 3 articles in a day are entered into the daily drawing to win a pair of Beats Headphones; those who read 3 articles a day for a number of days during a week are entered in a weekly drawing for an Apple Watch.  And there are district prizes too! One of my incoming freshmen won one of the daily prizes last week:

All of this makes me wonder about the value of summer reading.  Is it for pleasure? Is it for an assignment? Is it to win prizes? I'm curious to know how you or your district handles summer reading. Let us know in the comments!


  1. I'd love it if you read I am Malala (or read it again, if you haven't already.) I just finished a satellite seminar from the Memorial Library, Pathways to Social Justice in Cincinnati, and we're hosting a Twitter book club chat over the book in September, with the hashtag Ts4change. It would knock my socks off if you joined us. ( @bethctech

  2. Thanks, Beth!!!! What a great idea to do a book club via Twitter. I will absolutely join in! Thank you again!