Summer reading is optional for my district, which means that teachers cannot require students to read anything over the summer. I take that to mean I can strongly recommend they read, so I create a suggested summer reading list each year, and no, it doesn’t include reading anything published before my students were born. It’s my goal to assemble an exciting list with a wide variety of current reads that students would enjoy reading on their summer vacation.
First, I add titles that were popular during the previous school year. Having these on the list helps carry on the momentum and excitement that was created surrounding these particular books. They represent books I book talked (or Mr. Schu book talked when he came), or books written by our author visitors, or they were in our Top Ten most checked out list. If students didn’t have a chance to get their hands on the popular picks, then now’s the time.
My book club students enjoy helping give these genres unique names. So, we have a genre called, “Live, Love, Laugh, Be Inspired, which beats calling it, “Realistic Fiction.” I’ll never forget the year we had “A Good Cry” as a category on our list. Nothing says summer like a good cry! But, that’s what’s great! The students pitch in, they own it, and I am totally fine with it. Here are a few that fall under “Live, Love, Laugh, Be Inspired.”
Then, I add titles that give students a taste of the coming school year. I include books by next year’s visiting authors. I like the idea of students having the extra time to discover these books, outside of a classroom setting, which allows them to make their own connections to the author’s work. This always builds a grassroots following before our guest ever walks in the door.
I also included some books by authors who have books releasing during the summer. My students love books about animals, and author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb has visited our school previously, so I wanted them to have A Dog Like Daisy on their radar. Daisy will find a home in the hearts of readers at my school! Alan Gratz visited a couple of years ago, and his books have been staked out in our Top Ten Titles list ever since, and I knew they’d want to know about Refugee. I will start the year book talking both of these, and with some already getting their hands on these over the summer, I better have plenty of copies on hand in August, as word of mouth recommendations for great reads travels at light speed at my school.
The final component of my suggested summer reading list is our Volunteer State Book Award middle grade nominee list. A variety of genres are represented, and it’s a great mix of current reads. My Lunch Bunch Book Club focuses on these books, and our district’s middle school Battle of the Books uses titles from this list, so it really gives students who are interested in participating an opportunity to get a head’s start. Plus, these are solid choices that I direct all students to all year long. These will be book talked and shared widely throughout the coming school year. Any student who reads a minimum of 3 nominees is eligible to vote in the state book award election, so the inclusion of this list provides additional access and opportunity for students to participate in our VSBA program.
Last year, I asked surveyed students, and asked who read over the summer. For it to be optional to read, it was great to see that 70.1% of my students chose to read. Our student population was 925 last year, so I take that as a win! I will continue to make this little suggested summer reading list, and hope that it continues to encourage my students to read over the summer, and one thing’s for sure, whether anyone reads from the list or not, my students and I will continue to come up with ridiculous genre labels, and for that reason alone, it’s worth a look.