How to Kick-Start Summer Reading in Your School District

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The summer break experience is different for every child. Some kids may attend summer camp or vacation with their parents, while others may not have access to those opportunities. Kids left at home may spend more time on screens or engage in independent play. Regardless of each child’s circumstances, they're all at risk of experiencing the summer slide—the loss of academic skills during summer vacation—without the valuable learning and reading time that occurs at school. 


Fortunately, a summer reading challenge can help foster kids’ love of reading while continuing to build literacy skills while school is out. Summer reading is especially important for kids in low-income households. Per RAND Education, children from low-income families face a disproportionate decline in reading skills during the summer months. Public library and school-sponsored summer reading programs help reduce the impact of the summer slide and can even inspire new and lifelong reading habits in the most vulnerable children.

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What Do Summer Reading Challenges Look Like?

Summer reading challenges are an excellent way to motivate kids to read during the summer and can be customized to fit your school’s unique culture or goals. In fact, a well-executed summer reading challenge can turn a struggling reader into an avid reader. Picking an engaging theme is the best way to grab even the most reluctant of readers attention.


Selecting a Summer Reading Challenge Theme

Beanstack offers a general summer theme template if you need one, but it's also flexible enough to allow you to design your own theme in order to build the ultimate reading challenge. Themes could be connected to your school’s mascot, required reading titles, state book award titles, or social/cultural themes such as making friends or encouraging diversity. With Beanstack, you can customize your school’s homepage, reading lists, and challenge components like digital badges and banners to match your theme or pick from expertly designed reading challenge templates to save time. 


Determining the Goal and Outcomes

Once you have a theme, your reading challenge needs specific goals. In Beanstack, schools can set and track goals for total minutes or total books read per child or work toward big community reading goals. For example, Atlanta Public Schools used Beanstack to create city-wide challenges and community-sourced incentives from local nonprofits and businesses. Their program, RACE2Read, motivated the entire Atlanta community to log more than 10 million minutes of reading. While originally a school-year program, APS now sponsors a successful RACE2Read summer program as well.


Reading goals can include only books from a pre-selected list or be open to any independent reading titles. Teachers can even combine required reading with the fun of a summer reading challenge and then monitor students’ progress by grade, class, or individual reader. Beanstack is also great for parents who want to encourage kids to keep reading throughout the summer and explore new books while expanding their reading horizons. Collectively, students, parents, and teachers can all work together to uplift students and achieve community reading challenge goals.


Structuring Your Reading Challenge

Schools can structure reading challenges in many different ways, like by creating bingo cards, incorporating local activities, or complementing local library summer reading programs to engage even reluctant readers. Best of all, when both the local library and school district use Beanstack, students can link their accounts through our one-of-a-kind tandem connection service and enroll in both organizations’ challenges. Double the challenges means double the rewards while achieving both programs’ goals.


With a robust summer reading program as the cornerstone of your reading motivation strategy, schools, and libraries can gain a complete picture of reading progress and a glimpse into student book preferences, including picky readers. Use data from your first summer reading challenge to make an even better challenge next year with new ideas or to build up more school year challenges around holidays or school events, such as a winter reading challenge.


How Can a Summer Reading Challenge Benefit Your School District?

We know that more practice means better recognition of sight words, phonological awareness, and general comprehension when it comes to reading. Summer reading challenges improve all of these skills and have even more benefits, including:

  • Building community togetherness.
  • Strengthening your culture of reading.
  • Fostering a lifelong love of reading.
  • Establishing positive reading habits.
  • Improving standardized test scores.

Some school districts use a summer reading challenge as a pilot to test the expansion of new reading programs before the academic year begins. That was how Mitchell County Middle School in Georgia started with Beanstack. The school kicked off its Beanstack usage with a summer reading program and then rolled out a school year program in the fall. They added up all their students’ assessed Lexile scores in the fall and the winter and found that the school’s total Lexile score increased by nearly 10%. They soon tripled the school’s reading level improvement goal—and it all started with summer reading.

When you use Beanstack for your summer reading challenge, teachers can access easy-to-read dashboards and reports to understand their student’s reading habits and progress. The reports are real-time and customizable, so teachers can quickly and easily analyze data to change course, plan interventions, or celebrate successes.

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Tips to Kick-Start Your Summer Reading Challenge

Once you decide to launch a summer reading challenge, keep these important tips in mind to maximize learning and fun.


Utilize Beanstack: The Summer Reading Solution

Young readers love using Beanstack because it makes tracking their reading process fun. The intuitive app encourages kids to earn digital badges tied to achieving reading milestones. Beanstack makes it easier to inspire your entire class from a single application that still feels personal and exciting. Students stay engaged and grow their literacy skills all summer long.


Build Staff Excitement Around Your Reading Challenge

Engage teachers and librarians early in learning how to use Beanstack and discover all the unique benefits of the tool. This can include customized training from Beanstack experts, access to our library of training videos, and live testing of summer reading features. Some schools may organize a staff reading challenge to introduce the program and give teachers a chance to practice both teacher and student roles before rolling out the program officially. Plus, it’s fun. Teachers like reading and prizes too!


Familiarize Students With Beanstack

Introduce Beanstack as an exciting tool in advance of your summer reading challenge so that all users are ready for the fun to begin. To promote the program, you can use Beanstack’s ready-made promotional materials, like posters, flyers, participation guides, and social media images. School districts or individual school leaders can include these materials in student handouts and community newsletters for not just elementary school students but middle and high school students too.


Consider Adding Rewards

Incentives can infuse extra excitement into your summer reading challenge. Schools and libraries often offer rewards ranging from small prizes and free books to an entry into a grand prize drawing. Schools that incorporate rewards into their challenges generate 150% more participation and increase reading time by an average of 19–21 minutes per day when compared to programs without planned rewards.


Sync Up School and Library Reading Logs

If your local library branch chooses to host a summer reading challenge with Beanstack, be sure to coordinate efforts and organize joint promotions through newsletters, handouts, and social media. Both programs will increase participation by broadening outreach through combined channels. Students will love the ability to earn double the rewards and virtual badges by submitting reading that counts for both programs in one simple step.


Get the Whole Family Involved

Summer reading challenges don’t need to be limited to students in your district! Encourage the whole family to get involved in reading activities by involving younger siblings or even adult readers in the fun. This not only builds community but also provides opportunities for role modeling and further student engagement.


Build Literacy Skills In Your District With Beanstack

Help your district’s students discover new worlds of adventure this summer break while fostering academic achievement through an organized and supported summer reading challenge. Beanstack makes it easy to launch new programs, make book suggestions, track student progress, offer rewards, and analyze reading activities. Learn more about our library of reading challenge templates, abundant training resources, and customizable reports by speaking with us today! 


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