Education Opinion

Summer Slump

By Donalyn Miller — May 28, 2008 3 min read
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School ends in four days and I am working with my departing students to set reading goals for the summer. Discussing “summer reading slump,” when students’ reading levels decline over the summer because they don’t read, I share with my students the advice of researcher, Jimmy S. Kim, who recommends that children read four or five books over the summer to maintain their end-of-school-year reading levels. I urge each child to make lists of at least five books they plan to read over the summer break, frequently loaning books to sweeten the deal. After all, our class library books sit unread and unloved for three months. I consider these loans the literary equivalent of taking the plants and class pets home for the summer.

You see, I believe that the most important books my students will read are the ones they read after school is out. Choosing to read during the summer proves my students are independent readers who don’t need my modeling or expectations to keep reading. They read because they want to, not because they have to.

I have always been a person who has to read. Making summer reading plans is never a problem for me! Freed from grading and lesson planning, I set the ambitious reading goal of one book per day over summer vacation. From June to August, I read almost half of my yearly book allotment. It is hot here in Texas (already close to 100 degrees) and I confess that hiding in my air conditioning, reading for hours, is my favorite summer pastime. For me, summer reading slump refers to my prone posture on the couch, reading happily.

The books in my waiting-to-read bookcase (yes, an entire bookcase full) whisper to me these days-- begging me to choose them first. A few have been calling for months and are becoming quite persistent! Don’t you have books calling to you, too? Here is a sampling of the children’s books I will be reading this summer:

How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor- Georgina Hayes, her mother and brother are homeless, living in their car. Spotting a missing dog poster, Georgina hatches a plot to steal the dog and earn a reward. Garnering a starred rating from School Library Journal, I can tell you that any book with a dog in it has the potential to be an instant hit with intermediate readers.

Go Big or Go Home by Will Hobbs- After a meteorite crashes into Brady’s house, he must battle his nemeses, the Carver boys, and some unusual physical symptoms, to hold on to his rare find. Extreme adventures are Hobbs’ specialty, and the teaser on this book’s flap promises to deliver.

Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff- Sam, a learning disabled student who cannot read, fears his approaching eleventh birthday. When he discovers a mysterious newspaper clipping in the attic, Sam begins a quest to uncover a family secret. Any mystery which can only be solved by a reader sounds like my kind of book!

Airman by Eoin Colfer- While waiting for the next Artemis Fowl installment, due in July, I can soothe myself with this book from a fantasy master. Set in the 1890’s on the Saltee Islands, off the coast of Ireland, Airman follows the life of Conor Broekhart, a young man born in a hot air balloon, who is obsessed with flying. Spending years in prison on a trumped-up treason charge, Conor plots his escape by building a flying machine. My husband (who stopped waiting for me to read it first) claims this was a ripping adventure yarn with just enough fantasy to keep Colfer’s diehard fans happy.

The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg- Reading The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in elementary school began my lifelong love of all books Konigsburg. Amadeo, the new boy in town, desperately wants to make a great discovery, and through his new friend, William, might have stumbled onto mystery involving the artist Modigliani and the censorship of “degenerate art” in Nazi Germany.

Ethan Suspended by Pamela Ehrenberg- Ethan Oppenheimer is having a rough year: his parents separate, he is suspended from school, he is shipped off to live with his grandparents, and now he discovers he is the only white student at his new middle school. This unusual coming-of-age story explores topics which speak to middle schoolers everywhere—prejudice, family, and struggling to fit in.

What are you reading this summer? Share your reading plans. I bet I add a few more books to my pile when you do!

Look for a list of teaching books I plan to read in a future post.

The opinions expressed in The Book Whisperer are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.