Encouraging Student Summer Reading

6 min read

| By Elizabeth Mohn |

When most students think about summer, they think about warm weather and sunshine. Teachers can help students look forward to reading over the break by developing a summer reading list and introducing books on the list to students through resources available in Gale In Context: Middle School. Summer reading programs or reading lists are tools teachers can use to help students become interested in new books and stay active readers. Reading during the summer gives students opportunities for learning and enjoyment. Furthermore, numerous studies—including a 2021 study in the journal Reading & Writing Quarterly and a 2013 meta-analysis in the journal Review of Educational Research—suggest that summer reading programs help prevent summer reading loss for students from low-income families.

Teachers who want to encourage reading through a summer reading list or reading program will find countless resources exploring numerous books that will pique students’ interest and keep them reading long after the final bell rings for this school year. Teachers can browse resources about books, genres, and authors that are available in the Literature topic section to develop a list of books, series, and authors that students can choose to read over the summer. Teachers may also engage students in choosing books for themselves by exploring the new and updated Gale In Context: Middle School Literature portals.

A 2020 study in the journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy suggests that students may be more motivated to read when they choose what to read, teachers can help equip students with ideas for books to choose from by introducing them to some of the popular middle-grade books often seen on middle school reading lists. For example, teachers could have students explore the new Tuck Everlasting portal. The overview will teach students about the popular children’s novel, first published in 1975. The novel is famous for its descriptions of the natural world and insights into life and death. Teachers and students can also access this audio clip about the novel turning 40 years old.

Students interested in fantasy fiction with supernatural elements might be interested in the resources available in the new Something Wicked This Way Comes portal. The portal overview details the short dark fantasy novel by American author Ray Bradbury. In the book, two friends fight against evil forces descending on their town. Students and teachers can learn more about the book, Bradbury, and the historical context that helped inspire the book in the new article Something Wicked This Way Comes: Historical Context. For example, students will learn about traveling carnivals, one of which inspired Bradbury to create the characters and, ultimately, the story in the novel. Students might want to read the book over their summer break after listening to this audio file, in which author Seth Grahame-Smith explains why he fell in love with the book when he was a child.

While some students will be interested in reading classic middle-grade novels, others may be interested in more-modern works or books that break the stereotypical “reading list” mold. Many middle school students will be interested in learning about author and illustrator Jerry Craft’s graphic novel New Kid in the portal devoted to the book. Published in 2019, the graphic novel is about a middle school student named Jordan who has to deal with being the new kid at his school. Students will learn about the book’s themes and structure in the article “New Kid: Themes and Construction.” Students might also be interested in listening to this audio story that features Craft talking about his book and the importance of telling stories that people identify with. Teachers can encourage students to access the Graphic Novels overview to learn about the genre and to help them find other interesting books to read during the summer.

Students looking for more-modern books might be interested in exploring the Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Series) portal, which is about the popular middle-grade book series by American author Jeff Kinney. Kinney published the first book in the series in 2007, though he developed the characters years earlier. Students can learn about Kinney and the background of the book series in his biography, featured in the portal. Students can also read the article “Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ Author Jeff Kinney Shares His Book Picks for Middle Readers” to learn about books that the popular children’s author recommends for kids.

Since book series can help encourage students to read more books, teachers might recommend other book series featured in the Literature resources. For example, teachers can encourage students to explore The Lord of the Rings portal to learn about the fantasy novel, published as three books. British author J. R. R. Tolkien wrote the novel as a sequel to his 1937 book The Hobbit. In The Lord of the Rings overview, students will learn about the three books Tolkien published, which have been entertaining and inspiring readers for decades. Teachers can talk to students about how books can inspire other forms of art, and have students read the article “New ‘Lord of the Rings’ Movie Series in the Works at Warner Bros.” so they can learn about plans for new films inspired by the books. Teachers can also invite students to read the Fantasy Fiction overview to learn about this type of literature and identify other examples of it.

Teachers can help all their students identify books to add to their to-read lists by exploring works from other popular genres, such as historical fiction and nonfiction, in the Literature resources. Students interested in historical fiction may be interested in the Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry portal. The portal can help students learn about the 1976 novel by American author Mildred Taylor. Part of a series about a family from Mississippi, the book is set in the 1930s in the American South. The story is about 9-year-old Cassie Logan and her family, who face the dual challenges of violent racism and the Great Depression. Students can learn about the historical context that helped inspire and inform the book in the overview Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry: Historical Context. In addition, students can learn more about the book and people’s reception to it by reading this article about a school board voting on whether to ban the book because of its depiction of racial violence.

Students interested in historical events but who prefer nonfiction might be interested in exploring the updated Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl portal. This portal is about the book of the same name, which is a diary written by a Jewish girl who went into hiding from the Nazis during World War II (1939–1945). Students will find numerous resources—including a biography of her father, Otto Frank—about Anne and her family in the portal. The portal also includes overviews, such as Holocaust Literature, that tell about the historical events that influenced Anne’s life and writing. In addition to this background information, students might be interested in this audio story in which students reflect on Frank and the impact of her book.

About the Author

Elizabeth Mohn is a writer and an educational content developer. When she’s not reading or writing, Elizabeth is usually spending time with her family, listening to podcasts, or working in her garden.

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