CCA teachers offer tips for meaningful summer reading
Help your kids build reading skills and enter the next grade level fully prepared.
Teachers agree: Summer reading is a family affair. By wrapping summer reading in related activities and meaningful questions, parents help their children build reading skills and enter the next grade fully prepared for new heights in achievement.
To make the most of the summer reading experience, try these six tips from Commonwealth Charter Academy teachers Abigail Saul and Jeremy Burkett.
- Visit your local library. Libraries are rich sources of information and activities where kids socialize and see the power of ideas in action. Librarians can offer selections that challenge and entertain your student.
- Read the book, see the movie. Let your student compare and contrast, exploring why the filmmaker made choices to alter characters and plots.
- Offer small incentives. The incentives encourage your student to reach reading goals. A student of Burkett’s who loves horseback riding gets to enjoy her riding lessons after reading to the horse first.
- Make reading relevant. Use travel and activities to build a love of exploration and independence. Turn the family vacation into an excursion among lighthouses, or take a weekend to go camping.
- Get moving. If kids must concentrate on reading 30 minutes a day, they need to burn excess energy.
- Use the “retelling hand.” The “retelling hand” is used to encourage your student to recount the story in detail. Imagine a hand with an element on each finger, and ask about characters, settings, dilemma or goal, events sparked by that problem, and resolution. The act of retelling the story helps students build reading comprehension.
Kids go home with reading lists every summer. The point, teachers agree, is not unblinking adherence to the list but its use as a jumping-off point for exploring the wondrous world of books. Each child differs in reading level, and summer reading can make all the difference in preparing your child to move to the next level and learn to love reading for a lifetime.
Classic: “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” by Beverly Cleary. Introduce your reader to the timeless delights of Beverly Cleary with this tale of a mouse named Ralph who finds adventure on a toy motorcycle.
Topical: “If I Never Forever Endeavor,” by Holly Meade. Gorgeously illustrated in collage by the author, this story of a bird building the courage to fly from his cozy nest resonates with children learning to dare.
Series: “Shiloh,” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. A boy rescues a beagle from its abusive owner, but he must keep his act of heroism a secret.
Historical fiction: “Sam the Minuteman,” by Nathaniel Benchley (author) and Arnold Lobel (illustrator). Sam and his father rush to protect their colonial village from an attack by British soldiers.
Just for fun: “Millions of Cats,” by Wanda Gág. “Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.” Kids — and their grownups — love chanting the refrain from this tale of an old man in search of the world’s prettiest cat.
Classic: “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” by Scott O’Dell. A girl stranded on a lush Pacific island learns to survive while discovering her inner self.
Topical: “Mockingbird,” by Kathryn Erskine. Faced with the loss of a beloved brother to a school shooting, Caitlyn learns to navigate a world of subtleties previously unseen through her Asperger’s syndrome.
Series: “The Search for WondLa,” by Tony DiTerlizzi. Eva Nine, raised by the robot Muthr, searches for other humans after the destruction of her underground sanctuary.
Nonfiction/history: “Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” by Russell Freedman. Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat to a white man, unleashing a milestone movement in American civil rights.
Just for fun: “Herbert’s Wormhole,” by Peter Nelson (author) and Rohitash Rao (illustrator). Herbert and his friend time-travel and find heroism in a wacky 22nd century.
Classic: “The Hobbit,” by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s time to introduce your student to Tolkien’s world of hobbits, sorcerers, elves and a ring-hoarder called Gollum.
Topical: “Goodbye Stranger,” by Rebecca Stead. Can three old friends survive the hazards of growing up, finding purpose and bringing new friends into the group?
Series: “Redwall,” by Brian Jacques (author) and Troy Howell (illustrator). Bumbling young apprentice Matthias helps defend his colony of peace-loving mice.
Nonfiction/history: “You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton?” by Jean Fritz. Young Elizabeth Cady Stanton helps change the world after a lifetime of pondering the illogical laws and customs preventing women from voting and speaking in public.
Just for fun: “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” by Shel Silverstein. Enter the warped world of Silverstein, where Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout learns the consequences of refusing to take the garbage out, and an encounter with a boa constrictor doesn’t end well.
Classic: “Romeo and Juliet,” by William Shakespeare. The star-crossed lovers will never get a break, but their tale continues to illuminate the hazards of hatred and the depths of true love.
Topical: “Mexican Whiteboy,” by Matt De La Peña. A half-Mexican boy growing up in San Diego seeks friendship, acceptance and identity in a world that judges him at first sight.
Series: “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins. Katniss Everdeen wields her bow and arrow for justice and freedom in a dystopian world once known as North America.
Nonfiction/history: “The Glass Castle: A Memoir,” by Jeannette Walls. Walls turns a keen eye on her childhood, when she and her siblings learned to care for themselves in the wake of their parents’ dysfunction.
Just for fun: “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” by Rachel Cohn. A boy asks a girl, “Would you mind being my girlfriend for the next five minutes?” Those five minutes turn into an all-night quest by the mismatched pair to find a legendary band’s secret show.