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Make Summer Reading Fun and Engaging with Choice

I used to hate reading during the summer. I didn’t become an avid reader until college. I know it sounds crazy now that I’m a book curator, but reading was the last thing I wanted to do during summer vacation. The assigned reading was almost guaranteed to be a classic, whereas I was interested in adventure, sci-fi or fantasy. Even worse: every book was compulsory reading. I hope you had it easier than I did! 

As a teacher, I’ve found that a great way to keep kids wanting to read throughout the summer months is to give students lots of choices: a variety of book titles, but also different ways to process their reading.

Book Choice

Unlike my old school’s selections, when considering which books to present, consider offering as many latest releases as possible. “Latest releases” don’t have to be from this last year, they can be a few years old. These books present several advantages: 

  • With designs reflecting the latest visual trends, covers attract a younger audience’s interest. 
  • Greater diversity in authorship. 
  • Genres and themes are more current. 
  • Cultural references and technology are contemporary. 

Below are some English titles I chose this year for secondary students who are also language learners. They span a range of reading levels, from M to Z. I made it a point to offer graphic novels, science fiction and fantasy novels (all my favorite genres to be completely honest). Many of these titles are culturally relevant, including some of the sci-fi such as Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez and The Last Cuentista. Side note: I love, love, love The Last Cuentista! It’s like a new take on The Giver by Lois Lowry.

In addition to offering a current list of titles to choose from, make sure all of your students also have a library card. The library card is there to give them additional choice beyond the few titles that you’ve handpicked. It helps you set the expectation that students will read more than one book all summer long. If you are in a Title 1 school, your newest releases should be offered for free, as they will be very difficult to find in large quantities at the local library. 

Because most town and city libraries are not equipped with a large selection of books for emergent readers (levels A through G), educators need to get a little creative with summer reading. I suggest using your Title 1 or Title 3 Parent and Family Engagement budget to purchase titles for emergent readers. Emergent readers need to have a wide selection of titles made available by the school or district. 

If your school offers free meals during the summer, kids can check out pre-made baggies at the school throughout the summer. Some of the books in the baggies can be “read to” (for parents to read to students), and others can be “read by” (for independent reading by your students). Here’s an example of a mixed “read to” and “read by” baggie. You’ll notice that there’s always a choice!

Activity Choice

In addition to a hot-off-the-press selection, think about giving students a choice of how to show that they have read. Make sure to keep it simple for little ones. Reading logs are unengaging and outdated, I say this from experience. Our daughter loves reading, but she hates writing down the title and author’s name. As a parent, I also dislike signing off on it, it sends the message that I can’t trust her. 

Instead of a reading log, consider having a menu of questions that parents can ask to check comprehension. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know which questions to ask. By giving ready-made questions, you simplify the process quite a bit. 


For older students, let them use one book to answer multiple Bingo tasks. The more tasks they complete, the more points they accumulate. When school picks back up, reward students who read a little and a lot with different rewards.

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