In and outside of the classroom, and especially over the summer, encourage students to love reading by helping them read what they love.

3 ways to keep students reading this summer

In and outside of the classroom, encourage students to love reading by helping them read what they love

Key points:

  • By fostering stronger educator and caregiver communication, students can be better equipped to retain learning this summer
  • In order to inspire a lifelong love reading, consider guiding students to identify reading opportunities that complement their interests in their daily lives
  • See related article: 6 ways to help reluctant readers become booklovers

It’s been great to see students’ faces back in-person collaborating with one another and their teachers, but there’s no doubt the pandemic has impacted their academic and emotional learning. Reading scores dipped considerably due to the pandemic, with fewer than half of students qualifying at their grade level standard.

Even more, we are facing a student mental health crisis, with studies showing nearly 8 million children worldwide lost a parent or primary caregiver to a pandemic-related cause. Educators continue to work hard to keep students motivated and engaged in learning to read while helping them cope with mental health challenges.

Summer break, however, poses a risk to students retaining what they have just learned, according to the NWEA’s Map Growth assessments. As a reading specialist leading evidence-based programs at Holman Middle School, here are tips educators and other mentors can leverage to keep students motivated to read this summer.

Relationships come first, and reading comes quickly after

Teachers don’t always get to decide the culture of their classrooms themselves – a lot of it comes in predetermined by student interests, needs, and skill levels, and our success as educators rests in our ability to understand and connect with our students.

Now more than ever, teachers should prioritize social and emotional learning (SEL) with motivational and self-exploratory activities. For example, we spend time goal setting with students all year round, but particularly leading up to summer break. “We believe we are” exercises and other SEL practices start classes off with positivity and set students up to think optimistically about their ability to be successful in reading, even outside of the classroom. Incentivizing students to reach their goals with rewards can help build positive student-teacher relationships, too. This also sets the tone that students control their own destiny and their teachers are there to support them. Not only do exercises like these help students self-motivate and find more personal reward in their reading work, but they also encourage students to process and recover more quickly when they don’t grasp a skill immediately.

Give (reasonable) guidance for students to practice reading as they leave school this year

While there are some fundamental reading goals teachers should help students reach over the summer, like reading for at least 20 minutes a day, we strongly encourage our students to spend time reading what they love. Time on task increases with high-interest books, and finding students’ favorite genre(s) will help them to identify reading, going to the local library, and picking out new books as fun. In fact, 88% of students say that their favorite books – and the ones they are most likely to finish – are the ones they choose for themselves.

Technology can also make it easy for students to stay on task over the summer by personalizing their learning experiences and providing direct feedback and encouragement. Programs like DreamBox Reading, DuoLingo, Scholastic, and FastForWord are evidence-based to tailor personalized instruction and even suggest areas of intervention for English as a First Language and English as a Second Language (ESL) learners alike. Students can select texts they find most appealing, while on the backend, teachers get valuable insight and are able to plan more effectively for the coming year.

Summer reading programs should also lean heavily on the science of reading to level the playing field for any student struggling with phonics and other granular literacy skills. Many education leaders and edtech providers are releasing guides to implement science of reading curriculum whether remote, hybrid, or in-person. Providing students and their guardians with take-home assignments or online tools that teach phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension will give them opportunities to recognize small, organic learning opportunities even in just their daily conversations with friends and family.

Challenge students – and parents – to go further

Pre-approved classroom reading materials aren’t the only way students can reach that 20-minutes-per-day reading goal. Teachers should push students to recognize how they can use their developing reading skills for other purposes in day-to-day life, like following recipes or even building LEGO sets.

Engaging parents and guardians early on in the process encourages these daily opportunities for growth. Guardians can set a good example by reading at home themselves, establishing a routine of reading with their child, or simply helping their student find a book in a genre they would like – especially novels that can be compared to their movie adaptations, or even comic books with text.

For continued summer success, teachers should also ensure parents have access to hard data about their child’s learning. Identifying trends in reading skills can be illuminating for parents who want to maximize at-home lessons. Robust data reports from solutions like DreamBox Reading track student progress, inform next steps, and can connect students with secondary resources.

Students have been impacted by the pandemic in ways we don’t yet fully understand. Motivation and encouragement, along with fun activities and adaptive and personalized programs that engage both students and their families, will help students succeed in reading this summer and beyond.

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