Schools have an important role in keeping students reading over the summer holidays to help prevent the 'summer slide'. The 'summer slide' or 'summer slump' is the decline in reading achievement some children experience, after being away from school over the long summer holiday.
How schools can support summer reading
The role of the principal
The role of teachers
The role of the school library
Working with parents, families and whānau
Liaising with the public library
Teachers reading over summer
Schools using evidence to inform practice
Examples of school summer reading initiatives
The school holidays are a time when some children and teens have little or no opportunity to read and maintain their literacy skills and reading habits. Specific interventions are needed to prevent the summer reading loss, and encourage and support students to read during the holidays. Otherwise each school year will begin with weeks, if not a term or more, spent helping students catch up to their reading levels achieved the previous year.
To prevent summer reading loss your school can:
- share information about this issue
- provide access to appropriate resources
- give advice and support to families
- make connections with libraries
- develop a strategic, evidence-based, whole-school approach.
Summer reading is about fun and reading for pleasure. It is about finding the right books that appeal, with no 'study' requirements attached.
Schools are uniquely placed to connect with students, families and libraries, to lead summer reading initiatives and measure the impact in terms of student achievement.
While there are many players in successful school summer reading initiatives, the vision and commitment of the principal provides important high level endorsement and leadership. The principal can demonstrate support through being involved in aspects of planning. They can also model their own commitment to reading, and empower staff who undertake summer reading programmes, to ensure sustainability.
In his inspiring NerdyBookClub blog post, principal Matt Renwick talks about how he leads his school’s reading culture. Each year starts with staff sharing what they read over the holidays.
Your principal can support the summer reading programme planning by:
- including summer reading goals in the school’s planning, aligning them with literacy goals
- establishing a cross-school team with teachers from different levels and the school librarian, to share responsibility for planning and implementing summer reading programme.
Modelling is another powerful way a principal can provide support:
- through being a reading role model who can discuss children’s books, recommend books and inspire students to become readers
- by sharing expectations about staff being readers themselves, reading role models for students, and knowledgeable about children’s literature.
Principals can also empower the staff who set up your summer reading programme, by:
- providing time and support for summer reading initiatives
- endorsing policies and approaches that enable summer reading, such as relaxing your library's practices around lending and opening hours
- ensuring continuity and sustainability of summer reading programmes from year to year, through processes of reflection and review.
Teachers play an important role encouraging and supporting student summer reading. They can prepare students for summer reading, explaining the benefits and where they can find enjoyable reading material. Working with other colleagues across the school helps ensure the summer reading programme offers a cohesive and consistent message.
In addition, teachers are in an ideal position to:
- promote public library access and use
- liaise with the school library to provide resources and support
- communicate with parents about how to best help their child
- ensure students have the skills and strategies for successful independent summer reading
- promote reading for pleasure, and help students choose what to read
- follow up after the holidays about how the students did.
The school library is at the heart of reading in the school. Your school library staff are ideally placed to be a catalyst for putting books in children’s hands for the school holidays. They can also provide valuable support to teachers promoting summer reading to their students.
The leadership role of your library team can include:
- actively promoting summer reading programmes
- providing resources, guidance and encouragement to students and their families
- being a conduit to public library services and programmes
- gathering evidence of the impact of programmes and initiatives
- challenging, modelling and rewarding summer reading.
Summer reading provides schools with another important opportunity to connect with the school community, helping parents to support their child’s learning.
The school library can be a welcoming first port of call for families wanting to get books to read over the summer. You can also encourage families to join and use public libraries.
Information, support and resources for families
Schools can provide a range of information, advice, support and resources to help parents include reading as part of their child’s holiday activity.
Information you share with families might include:
- highlights from the research, and what your own school data is telling you about summer reading loss
- the difference that holiday reading can make to their child’s reading progress and overall academic success
- ways they can help their children, including keeping reading fun, and that little and often will make a meaningful difference
- the importance of variety in reading material – such as comics and graphics, non-fiction as well as fiction, and series fiction.
Informing families and whānau about summer reading requires using multiple communication channels. While each school community will have their own tried and true ways to reach families, here are some suggestions:
- Include summer reading programme information in the school notices, in newsletters or with reports
- Post information up on the school website
- Announce your programme at school events such as prizegiving or end of year productions, and hand out a flyer
- Host a session with parents, for example at an evening event or a morning tea at school
- Give each family a fridge magnet to remind them about reading, library opening hours, and goals for daily reading
Supporting parents, and families/whānau
You can support parents by sharing strategies such as:
- how to help their child choose 'just right' books
- encouraging them to read aloud to their children, especially younger or struggling readers, and suggesting some great titles - along with promoting bedtime reading
- helping parents know how to listen to their child read and help appropriately
- reminding parents how important they are as reading role models, especially for boys to see male reading role models such as dads and other whānau
This Reading Rockets article about summer reading has some good reminders for schools about the elements that contribute to family literacy participation.
When schools and public libraries take a connected approach to working with students and their families, it strengthens the network of support for students. Public libraries are a key resource for summer reading material for students, and many run great summer reading programmes.
In planning a closer relationship between your school and the local public library, first find out more about the services and programmes they offer. Discuss ways to promote public library use in the school community.
An invitation to the local children’s librarian to visit the school and talk to classes is a good start. There are lots of other ways you can encourage families to join and use the public library's services such as:
- Make public library registration forms available in the school foyer along with a display including an invitation to visit, library opening hours, photo of the librarian, map location
- Promote library membership and holiday programmes through the school newsletter, website and at school events, and in packs for parents new to the school
- Take students to visit the library on a class visit. Using public transport from the home suburb to the public library encourages older students visit the library independently
- Talk about how you use the library, show your library card, talk about when you visit, and how you avoid overdue books
- Survey students to find out how many have a public library card and / or visit the public library
- Use the survey data in a promotion campaign or set a school goal of increasing membership by x % - re-survey after the promotion to see if there is any uptake
- If your school is participating in the Reading Together programme it may have a relationship already with the public library, which can be developed further
Reading children's or young adult books over the summer is not only enjoyable, it enables you to make reading recommendations to students and become a great reading role model. You'll find yourself more confident about discussing new and interesting titles with your students, and gain a deeper knowledge of current authors and their work.
The summer break provides an opportunity for the principal, teachers, or the school librarian, to promote reading children’s / YA literature to all staff, by:
- including some recent children’s / YA literature in every teacher’s summer holiday borrowing from the school library
- issuing a challenge to all staff to read a certain amount of children’s / YA fiction over the summer, borrowed from the school library, public library and / or National Library
- inviting staff to keep a record of their reading, sharing recommended titles at the beginning of the new term, using Goodreads or LibraryThing either individually or as a staff, or maybe posting to a blog
- asking the school librarian to help with reading recommendations, holiday borrowing, or useful book websites.
The following are examples of how some schools encouraged their staff to read over summer:
Taipa Area School: The school librarian chose 6 novels for each teacher from the library collection and put them in a bag with a letter inviting them to read the books. And, if they wished to they could write a brief book review to go on a paper 'belly band' around the book on display in the library at the beginning of next term.
Matarau School: Staff had a holiday reading challenge and had a LibraryThing account to record their children’s /YA books read, assign a star rating and add their name as a tag.
Whangarei Boys High School: Staff borrow over the holidays and at the start of the new year. Their YA reading is put on display with short reviews and recommendations in the library.
Being strategic about gathering evidence before, during and after any holiday reading initiative will show schools what made a difference. You can also use it to inform future practice and initiatives.
Evidence-based practice asks you to consider:
- Evidence FOR practice – what inspired / challenged / informed you to address the issue? What is the research telling you? What are your own observations and your school data telling you?
- Evidence IN practice – what initiatives are you / your school actually implementing to address summer reading? What approaches, collaborations, promotions are taking place?
- Evidence OF practice – how do you know what you did made a difference for student learning? how will these results inform how summer reading initiatives could be refined, extended, improved?
Examples of schools' approaches to summer reading include:
Ahipara School: Whole school approach, library books, public library visits and librarian to school, take home bags, staff reading, photo competition and display in foyer etc
Corinna School: Principal led, school library, Saturday session, parents, gathering data
Mosston School: Lots of initiatives, library displays, presentation, take home packs etc
Nelson Park: 10 instructional readers sent home with students, data collected
Parklands School: Literacy lead teacher, school reading resources from resource room, bags of books given levelled for targeted students etc
Maidstone Intermediate: Reading response
Raroa Normal Intermediate: Year 7 borrowing books “as many as you can carry”
Secondary / Area
Mahurangi College: Many strategies – staff meeting, local newspapers, talks to students, book borrowing day after stocktake, branding programme “book break” each holidays
Scots College: Student led book review blog to promote reading for pleasure
Download the following case studies, which provide more detailed information about how some schools have approached summer reading.