Saturday, June 6, 2015

Prevent Summer Slide: Model Summer Reading Goals

The Internet is awash right now with reading lists and learning activities for kids. It’s summer, and next school year is just a summer-slide away. We all know that reading is good for kids. Putting aside for the moment the research that it is just as good for adults, know also that the best way to get kids to engage in summer reading is not carrots or sticks, but to model it yourself.

What if every kid set summer reading goals? Wouldn’t that be great? What would make that more likely than if every adult in every kid’s life set summer reading goals? What adults can I make sure do that? The one reflected in the computer screen in front of me.

Yup, me. For you, that’s you. 

What kind of summer reading goals? The Internet is awash in those, too. Pick one. Pick anything. The important thing is not the goal, but that having a goal is more likely to motivate us to do something than if we just have a hazy feeling that we should read some books this summer. 

Last summer I didn’t get to some of the books on my list (Dune—the library didn’t get it in time—and a number of professional development books—it appears I bit off more than I could chew in that category, but since I’d already bought them, I’m motivated to read the rest of them this summer), but I also read many, many more books than were on my list—those were just seed titles. 

Here are some of the types of reading goals I’ve seen:
  • #bookaday: Twitter hashtag for the 7th annual challenge, launched by Donalyn Miller of The Book Whisperer fame, for adults to read a book a day during the summer (See her blog introducing the challenge here). Use the hashtag to find a community of support and ideas among librarians, parents, and elementary/middle school teachers on Twitter.
  • Number of books to read in a year: The GoodReads website can help you track this if that’s your thing.
  • Types of books: At this website you can join the Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge to read 12 books in 12 months, and the author lists the 12 types, from “a book you read in your childhood” to “a book in a genre you don’t usually read” to “a book by a favorite author.” You can follow her Pinterest board for “accountability and inspiration.”
This last one intrigues me. It’s sort of what I’ve always subconsciously done (some professional development, a new world lit classic, a book from a new culture, a new prize winner, some YA lit, some nonfiction, something on faith, and some just plain fun for me) as well as what I urge students to do—some fun, some challenge; some fiction, some nonfiction; something comfortable, something new. 

Here are my summer reading goals:
  • Professional development, general: Currently reading Developing Readers in the Academic Disciplines by Doug Buehl; I also have Jeff Anderson’s books 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know and Everyday Editing: Inviting Students to Develop Skill and Craft in Writer’s Workshop.
  • Professional development, literature: Currently reading So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures (preparing to teach the novel again after a long absence from U.S. lit)—the most engaging literary commentary I’ve ever read.
  • World lit classic: I was considering Don Quixote, from my someday list, but prepping for 2 new classes, I think I’d better stick with course content (The Epic of Gilgamesh, Antigone, etc.); also from my new school’s summer reading list, authors that have been on my radar but I’ve never gotten to: A Palace Walk by Mahfouz Naguib, Miguel Street by V.S. Naipaul (these 2 are 2-for-1 as Nobel Prize winners), and Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon.
  • New world culture: 2 I have on my someday list from A Year of Reading the World are Death and the Penguin from the Ukraine and Blindness from Portugal (another 2-for-1 here as the author Jose Saramago was also the 1998 Nobel Prize for Literature winner)
  • New prize winner: Dora Bruder by Patrick Modiano (2014 Nobel Prize for Literature)—just finished yesterday
  • YA lit: Looking for Alaska, possibly Maze Runner and The Uglies
  • Nonfiction: Recently read Talk Like TED (thought about classifying this under professional development, as both my practice of and teaching of presentation will never be the same), Just Mercy, and A Path Appears; thinking about The Sixth Extinction and Lean In
  • Faith: Recently read Love Walked among Us and Get Real; currently reading Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God
  • Fun: Recently read The Rosie Project (hysterical) and The Light between Oceans (gorgeous and powerful); want to read Station Eleven
You might have noticed that my reading goals are pretty fluid. That’s okay. The point is not to have a goal, or even to attain your goal. The point is to read. Do whatever will make it more likely that you will read more. 

This week I just noticed that a high school teacher at my new school has his “currently reading” shelf linked to his school web page. Wow! What a great idea! I hurriedly updated my long-lapsed GoodReads “currently reading” list. High on my to-do list for next week is seeing if I can link it to my blog. Then following that teacher on GoodReads.

What if all the teachers at a school were always reading and talking about it with kids and with each other? That would be the best summer reading program ever. I’ll do my bit to create a culture where that kind of summer reading program is natural. 

How about you? What are your summer reading goals?

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