And let me add my two cents from a Knowledge Question article I wrote last year:
Four Key Qualities of a Successful Summer Reading Program
In this article in Knowledge Quest, Teri Lesesne (Sam Houston State University) salutes the idea of getting students to read over the summer but doubts that requiring certain books is an effective strategy for countering “summer slide.” For example, entering pre-AP ninth graders in one school were asked to choose from among these books: The Crucible, A Farewell to Arms, Cannery Row, Antigone, and Siddharta, and regular ninth graders had to choose from these: Speak, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, The Outsiders, and The Chocolate War. Instead, she suggests that we CARE about readers:
• Choice – When teachers give students a narrow choice of books, says Lesesne, they are in effect saying they know the best books and students can’t be trusted to find any. She suggests letting students choose from a much wider range of literature, including the Best Fiction for Young Adults lists www.ala.org/yalsa/best-fiction-young-adults or the Outstanding Books for the College Bound www.ala.org/yalsa/outstanding-books-college-bound. “Readers are more likely to read and to be engaged,” she says.
• Access – Some students find it difficult to put their hands on books over the summer, and schools need to create alternatives: loaning books from classrooms and the school library, partnering with public libraries, organizing transportation to libraries, and holding book drives as a service initiative. But in addition to physical access to books, Lesesne believes there’s an equally important second kind: “Books should be ones our readers can access intellectually, morally, culturally, and socially without assistance from an adult.”
• Response – How will students be held accountable for doing their summer reading? Traditional formats – book logs, quizzes, essays – run the risk of being an onerous turn-off. Lesesne has no specific suggestions for how to escape this trap but believes we need to experiment with better ways to allow students to enjoy and get immersed in their reading while still making sure they do it.
• Enthusiasm – Brief, high-energy booktalks are the best way to pique students’ interest, says Lesesne. She’s worked with colleagues to present as many as 50 of these in a half-hour (15-30 seconds for each book). She also suggests organizing Twitter chats, a Facebook page, and Google+ Hangouts among students to share books and build buzz.
Lesesne closes by citing the Katy Independent School District in Texas for its exemplary summer reading program (entirely voluntary). You can find information on this program at http://elasummerreading.weebly.com.
“Summertime and the Reading Is Required?” by Teri Lesesne in Knowledge Quest, May/June 2015 (Vol. 43, #5, p. 18-21), no e-link available; Lesesne can be reached at doctorL@shsu.edu.