Now more than ever, students need support to boost their literacy skills and get back on track. A recent study from McKinsey found that, on average, K-12 students are four months behind in reading, and students from marginalized backgrounds are often falling even further behind. Summer is a critical time when learning loss and inequities can either be cemented or remedied.
Summer reading is a proven way to keep students engaged with literacy and social emotional learning during their months away from school. It's never to early to start planning a reading challenge to encourage students and their families to pick up a book. In this blog, we're looking ahead to summer reading with a few quick tips and takeaways to help fight the summer slide.
Foster community engagement
Summer is a great time to engage with your community. Partnering up with local organizations, the public library, or prominent community members can help spice up your reading challenge and reach even more students and families. It can also connect readers, especially those from under-served populations, with resources and experiences.
In the research for our 2021 Summer Reading Report, we heard from librarians who found success engaging their communities with creative promotions like video series and social media campaigns. The allure of community outings and prizes inspired students to keep reading. The report also revealed many other best practices to create engaging, user-centered summer reading challenges, which we incorporated into our Summer Reading Challenge templates, so it's ready for you to launch!
Focus less on assessment levels and more on fun
Our 2021-2022 mid-year survey discovered many Beanstack librarians and media specialists are less concerned about how students score on reading tests and more concerned about how they feel about reading. “I am trying to show students that reading is rewarding, and step away from testing the outcomes for reading,” explains Angie Tucker, a media specialist at Camden Junior High School in Tennessee. “As adult readers, we are not tested. I want [my students] to be real readers.”
The positive impact of reading for fun is well documented. Studies show that, when schools build a culture of reading, academic and personal gains follow. Our takeaway for 2022? A fun summer reading challenge will show kids how cool independent reading can be, leading to a lifelong impact—not just a quick fix. Play up the joy in summer reading with free choice reading, attainable goals, and enrichment activities.
Make it easy for teachers to participate
Librarians know that getting teachers on board is crucial for any reading challenge. But after two years navigating the coronavirus pandemic, many teachers are burned out. “The teachers are overwhelmed with trying to make up for lost ground due to Covid,” notes Donna Shigezawa, a librarian at Salt Lake Elementary School in Hawaii, “so participation varies from class to class in terms of how much the teacher is encouraging the students to log their minutes.”
Educators are juggling a lot right now—so it’s essential to make it as easy as possible to participate in summer reading. Our Summer Reading Challenge templates come with premade marketing materials (including newsletter templates and flyers to send to parents), so teachers can get involved without adding another task to their overloaded to-do list. And they can track their own reading and participate right alongside students.
It may not feel like summer yet, but the end of the school year is coming up fast. Now is the time to start thinking about summer programs that will help your students and their families make up for the learning time lost during Covid. We hope these tips and tricks will help you launch a summer reading challenge that keeps your students’ skills sharp—while building a culture of reading in your community that will last a lifetime.