Life, Reading

Teacher Tuesday! Why We Assign Summer Reading

Hi Friends:)

I haven’t written a Teacher Tuesday in a while, so I figured for my comeback edition, I’d talk a little about one of my personal favorite things: READING!

Firstly, I like to let people know that my experience learning to read was not a smooth one. First grade came and went and I was still struggling to decode three and four letter words. I was young for my grade (August baby, wahoo) so my parents and I decided that the best thing for me at that point in my life (age 6) was to do first grade again.

And I was so lucky. My second time through first grade, at age 7,  me and three other kids from my class received specialized daily reading skills sessions.  I was little enough that I didn’t feel the stigma of getting “kept back,” or “pulled out.” Instead, I discovered the joy of reading. By the end of that year, I’d found the American Girl Doll books and the Babysitter’s Club series, and started reading in my spare time.

I worked hard in school and earned good grades, but I tested slightly below average in reading until fifth grade, when I jumped into the above average range. What changed from fourth grade to fifth grade, you ask?

HARRY POTTER.

I discovered the Harry Potter series mid-way through 4th grade, which launched me into an unstoppable reading binge for, like, the rest of my life. I read all of the HP books three times over, then dredged my library card out of the junk drawer and began a love affair with the YA section.

Flash forward to when I was training as a teacher; One of my first graduate classes focused on reading instruction, and I was absolutely fascinated by the topic. I learned a ton from the course, but one fact stood out to me: the only way to truly improve a student’s reading level is to get them reading, and reading a lot.

I know from my own experience that my reading improved when I read a lot. I know from my teaching practice that my student’s reading improves when they read a lot. And I also know from my teaching practice that my student’s reading doesn’t just stagnate when they’re not reading a lot; it suffers.

“Ask them if they read over the summer before you assess their reading level,” a veteran teacher once told me. “If they say they didn’t read, start assessing them at four levels down from where they left off the year before. It’ll take them until November to climb back again.”

For those of you who aren’t in the know, four levels is nearly a full year of learning loss. As a teacher it’s heartbreaking to see this happen; often times my students with disabilities worked super hard all year to improve their levels, and just those few weeks of “taking it easy” totally stole thier progress back again.

My friends and family who are parents often express frustration around how much homework and summer reading is assigned over vacation and school breaks. I get it; kids hate homework, and often behave like their worst selves during homework time. Summer seems like it should be a reprieve from homework-induced-misbehavior…then the reading list comes home. But believe me; homework time in September will be so much worse if your kid backslides and ends up struggling to understand their assignments. I assign summer reading because I know what can happen if a student isn’t maintaining their skills consistently, and I honestly want better for my students as they move into the next grade.

In my experience, it doesn’t even matter what the kids are reading; It just matters that they’re reading for about 20-30 minutes at a time, at least 5 days a week.  So bring on the graphic novels, the dystopian series, the girly magazines, whatever!  Let them read that YA romance novel for a 5th time! Let them read Buzzfeed News articles for a while! (as long as they don’t get sidetracked by instagram…)

Summer reading isn’t just a chore; it’s a necessity. And if it’s done well, it’s so, so joyful.

Happy Reading, Folks!

Now You Tell Me…

  • Did you have to do any summer reading as a kid? 
  • What was your favorite childhood book?
  • What are you reading right now? (I’m reading The Love That Split The World and loving it so far!)