Free Choice Reading as a Summer Reading Requirement
Updated: May 12
Forcing students to read specific texts over the summer could start the year off on a sour note.
I get it...
We want to make sure our students are still reading over the summer, so we give them a list of REQUIRED books to read. The intention behind this is logical. It’s a sure-fire way to get them to read. It gives you something they can do when they return to school in August/September. It’s your first grade for your grade book. It helps you determine what kind of readers they are.
But it doesn't work and this is why:
Students, especially middle schoolers, get resentful when they are forced to do something they don’t want to do. Yes, I know that is going to happen in life, but I wouldn’t want to start the school year off with a resentment towards books.
Most of them are reading it begrudgingly because they are being forced to read it. Even attempts at having them take notes as they go or answer a packet is often met with resistance. It’s summer, why do I have to do this work?
Many students will read the book right before summer starts to “get it over with” which means they won’t have much recall of the text in September. Plus, if they got it from the library, they’ve probably returned it which also doesn’t help. If they wait until the last minute, well, sure, they’ll have the books, but they most likely crammed it in not absorbing the information.
Some will say that it’s nice to have a shared book experience to start of the year. If they all read Holes, then it can be used as a mentor text. This, I am on board with, but I would NOT assign work to go with that text. I’d use it to start instruction.
On that note, though, I’ve never done this. I like to start the year off fresh with a new shared text we can dig into TOGETHER. After all, that’s what I am there for...to guide them through reading.
Here is what works:
Let them read what they want. Anything they want. Honestly, aren’t we just happy if they read something? Think about yourself...don’t you enjoy just grabbing any old book you want to read on the beach? Why would we force our kids to spend their break trudging through a book they never wanted to read in the first place?
If they can read whatever they want, they will be encouraged to keep reading. If they are told they have to read ONE book they will most likely read ONE book. With giving them the freedom to choose, they will hopefully keep reading.
Work with your public library and/or close-by bookstores. I consistently reach out to my district’s librarian.
Speak with your upcoming students before the school year ends! Get them excited about reading and the next school year.
Allow opportunities for them to share what they are reading. With technology, there are endless possibilities. Start an Instagram account just for sharing reading ideas. Use Google Classroom to jot thoughts. Create a collaborative Slide presentation where students could add their books. Use Seesaw to post book reviews.
Don’t force them to do some lengthy assignment on it when they return. There are lots of different options out there, but I like to have do a book review. I actually have book reviews going all year in my classroom, so this is their first official review.
Students write one book review a month and then add it to a shared site (I've used Padlet in the past). This allows them to give honest opinions about the texts they read while also seeing what their peers read. Click here or the picture below to see more!
I have no choice!
If your district requires you give your students a specific list or book, well what can you do? I’d really recommend using that shared text as a springboard into a NEW shared text in September. As for a grade? See if you could do book talks or reviews instead of long-winded question/answers. If students were lucky enough to be able to CHOOSE from a list, perhaps you can have them do book talks with others who read the same books.
What I do:
I only require one thing from my incoming 6th graders...they must read SOMETHING. I do set some basic guidelines, though, so that they are reading something substantial. I also created a collaborative reading record where they can add books read and share with fellow classmates books they have in common. Check it out below or click here!
Want a CUSTOM BUNDLE from me? Click below!
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