Required Summer Reading -maybe yes, maybe no


Donalyn Miller wrote a great post this last weekend on the Nerdy Book club site.  It is worth reading and thinking about.  (

I was torn as a teacher of high poverty children.  Her premise was that children should free read in the summer.  They should pick and choose the books they want. I agree but when I sit down to think about my students I am concerned.

My students fall farther and farther behind each summer because they don’t read.  They don’t always have the family support that says read – read anything you like but just read.  They “watch” lots of books and return in the fall to say o- yeah I know that book I watched it this summer.   Sorry, it is just not the same.   The active role of a reading and thinking is different than watching someone else bring a story to life on the screen.  Don’t get me wrong I love a good movie but that is not what will help my students in the long run.

I guess this is where we use that word differentiate.  We need to look at the needs of our students, and their families.   What do they need to help them be successful each year? What makes sense for them over the summer?

So this year I tried to reach both sides of the question. I required my students to read.  I asked that they read 3 books this summer. One for each month- more if they want but please read three. We then walked through our school library, looked on line and made a list of books they want to read over the summer. I was looking for choice. My hope is that when given a choice of the books they might actually read them.

They wrote their choices down in their reading logs.  They check to see if the local library had the books for them to check out and checked off which ones they could find.

I can only hope that this will at least help some of them.  The first steps of the process are taken care of.  We will see that the fall brings!

Here hoping for happy reading this summer!

About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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4 Responses to Required Summer Reading -maybe yes, maybe no

  1. Peg D says:

    I read that article as well and agreed with it. I understand where you are coming from and love the compromise you made. I am an assistant in Kindergarten but do reading intervention with 2, 5, and 6th grade. I am also the mother of two boys, 13 and 15 who are at the top of their classes and read all the time. Both are in the Pre-AP classes. The oldest after 7th grade had to read The Pearl, after 8th he had to read The Bean Tree, and this summer he has to read Things Fall Apart and Anthem. Youngest has to read Of Mice and Men. All summer reading comes with packets of questions and essays that have to be written.
    I think it is a cart-horse, horse:cart situation. It feels as though my kids are being punished in someway by requiring more work from them. Those who aren’t doing well are not going to magically do well because they have required summer reading. Most likely they won’t do it or will do a slap-dash job at the last minute. Meanwhile my kids are spending time on school when they should be allowed to be kids and enjoy some time off.
    Thought provoking. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Cathy says:

    Interesting perspective. I always am a little concerned for my readers who need the most support. They are out of the classroom enough to make it hard for them to have time to develop a reading life. They don’t have the time to read independently that the other students have. They don’t have as much time to find the books they love, to practice the strategies we learn independently, to find themselves as readers. I worry that when they go off for the summer they won’t have the schema they need for finding books to continue reading.

    I know as a learner, I’m happy to have the summer to catch up on the reading I choose – personal and professional. I hope for those same opportunities for my children and my students.

    I think you found a middle ground where you set your students up to continue to read and have choice in those texts. I wonder how many will surprise you by reading more? I’ve heard many great ways to encourage summer reading. I’ve heard teachers meeting students at the library so many times during the summer. We’re trying to blog about our reading on Mondays. Readers need time and summer seems the perfect time to find their place in books. I’ll be interested to hear how it goes.


    • I love the blog idea – has me wondering if I can still get that going for a few who still check their google docs from school. I would love to hear how that works for you.

  3. I read Donalyns post on Sunday as well-I think my take away is that demanding required reading with no choice involved is not the way to foster a love of reading-having lists of books posted that are a requirement to complete before fall is different than letting them choose…like you I teach in a high poverty area-I’m quite sure most of the kids will do little if any reading ( this makes me so sad…we need a books on wheels program) check out this link on the summer slump-alarming to be sure-

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