Avoid the Summer Slump: 7 Ways to Encourage Reluctant Readers All Summer Long

By Andrew Hawk

Avoid the Summer Slump: 7 Ways to Encourage Reluctant Readers All Summer LongIt’s hard to believe that another school year is almost in the books and it will soon be summer again. One of the hardest things for teachers to cope with is spending a year working hard to elevate students’ academic abilities only to see them regress during the summer. For elementary teachers, this is especially true with our reluctant readers. Many of these students struggle with reading due to a lack of interest or an exceptionality. During the school year, teachers can, at the very least, provide the oversight necessary to keep these students reading while they are at school. However, in most school districts across our country, students will be out of school soon and left to their own devices. Here are seven tips to help you encourage your students to read during the summer months.

1. Communicate with Parents
What a parent will or will not make a child do depends entirely on the parent. Most teachers have dealt with parents who won’t make their child complete homework during the school year, let alone during the summer. I spoke with a parent recently who told me she was not going to argue with her child about homework, so he would have to receive whatever the school consequence is for not having his homework completed.

Many parents will put in the extra effort if you let them know how important it is for students to read during the summer months to prevent the regression of their literacy skills. If you do not have time to call your students’ parents, type up a short letter and send it home. I would recommend requiring a guardian’s signature on a return slip so you know the letter was at least in the parents’ hands.

2. Research Summer Reading Programs
Most communities offer some type of summer reading program. Public libraries typically provide them. Do a little research and see what is available in your community. Then send the information home to parents. At my first school, we actually took a field trip to the local library so students could register for the program. If this is a possibility at your school, I recommend setting it up. I also recommend following up with parents to encourage them to enroll their students.

3. Find Out How Accessible Books Are to Students
I currently live in Lafayette, Indiana. It is a wonderful community but very spread out. The problem with this is that many neighborhoods are located miles away from one of our libraries. This major roadblock prevents many of our students from accessing books during the summer. One neighborhood came up with a plan to overcome this challenge: They started a neighborhood book exchange. People set up large cabinets in their front yards, similar to Little Free Libraries. People in the neighborhood donated books to stock the cabinets. Anyone, child or adult, was allowed to come and borrow a book or leave a book. I have not seen any numerical data that measured the success of this idea, but the feedback I have heard through word of mouth has all been positive. Starting a program like this may be a lot of work, but it would also be very rewarding if it keeps students reading.

4. Make Book Lists for Your Students
Studies show that struggling readers comprehend at a higher level when they are reading material that is of interest to them. Conduct an interest survey, and then compile recommended reading lists for your students. The lists do not necessarily have to be longer than five to ten books. If students are aware of specific titles that relate to their interests, it might motivate them to pick up a book during the summer.

This is also a way to motivate students to go to the library during the summer. I have had a lot of success in the last few years by providing my students with the opportunity to read books and magazines about their favorite video games. While these materials are not my first choice for students to read, they still provide an opportunity for students to get into the habit of reading.

5. Hold Your Own Summer Reading Contest
This can be anything you want it to be. You could have prizes, or the winner could just get bragging rights. All you really need to do is distribute a reading log to your students. I also recommend setting weekly goals to get them started.

6. Tell Your Students How Important It Is to Read
I usually give my students a short speech about how much they have learned during the school year and how I would hate to see their work go to waste. It is also a good idea to tell your students when, specifically, they could be reading. I tell my groups to have reading be the last thing they do before they go to sleep. My hope is that there will be fewer outside distractions, such as siblings, video games, and television, at that time.

7. Exploit Reading Fads
Just a few years ago, educators were cashing in on students’ excitement for the Harry Potter series. There may not be a must-read series as big as that right now, but there are many series that generate excitement in young readers. If you become aware that a group of your students is excited by a certain book or series of books, try to promote these reading materials to other students. Excitement can be infectious among students, even regarding reading materials.

Andrew HawkAndrew Hawk has worked in public education for fourteen years, starting as a teaching assistant in a special education classroom. He has taught first, second, and fifth grade as a classroom teacher, and for the past three years, has worked as a resource room teacher, providing services for fourth and fifth graders. Working as a special education teacher has given him the opportunity to work with a variety of age groups and exceptionalities. In 2011, he earned his master’s degree in special education from Western Governor’s University. When Andrew is not preparing for school, he enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter.

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