The June bugs are banging on windows. The cicadas are revving up. There's the occasional whiff of charcoal, fresh-cut grass, and sunscreen. Lemonade suddenly tastes so much better. Have you noticed? It’s almost here!
Ah, summer. Sure, the calendar says it’ll be June 20th before summer’s officially arrived, but any middle grader worth his kickball knows that summer begins the moment that school gets out. For some out there, summer’s already begun; others have another week or two left. That's where my school falls. Two weeks left. That means this is my last week to see students. It also means my big push for summer reading.
I won’t see my students over summer (well, except for the random encounter at the pool or at the Summer Snow slushie stand), so I do all I can to get them set up to read this summer. After all, I sincerely believe that it’s the number one thing they can do to get ready for the next school year. I talk about the school district’s reading program and the public library’s reading program, and I share with them some of my favorite bookish websites. Since most of you aren’t eligible for our local summer school or public library reading program, I thought I’d share the websites here. Here are my favorite book lists, incentives, reading challenges for middle graders in summer.
The Top 100 Children's NovelsI’ve been sharing this video for the last three years with students. It’s a survey that Betsy Bird over at Fuse #8 did, put together by Maggi Idzikowski. Betsy’s doing new surveys this year (Top 100 Novels), but they won’t be done in time for me to share, so it’s this one again. And, as I say to my kids, these aren't all the good books in the world, but you certainly can't go wrong picking one off of this list. I’m also not too proud to admit that it always gets me a little teary-eyed. I don't know if it's the music, the cramming together of so many old "friends", or hearing my students gasp as their favorites appear. But....every time!
Read Kiddo Read
This is James Patterson’s website. He does a great job of making it kid-friendly and I love how he’s divides up his suggested reading lists.
NoveList K-8 is a paid subscription we get through the state of Wisconsin, so I can’t guarantee you have access to it. But it’s definitely worth asking at your public library about it. You can type in your favorite book and find read-alikes, you can pick a genre you love and browse, you can even plug in your reading level in the advanced search and find books that way. I’ve often found that sometimes it’s not that kids don’t want to read, they just don’t know WHAT to read. So my fifth graders, who are heading off to middle school in the fall, are creating and printing personal reading lists from the site using the folders this week. (Writers, it’s also a great resource for finding what other books are comparable to yours.)
What!? You haven’t heard about this site? Ha! This is my own little summer reading challenge I do with my students each year. In the summers, I post what I'm reading on this blog. Then I challenge my students to keep track of their summer reading. Anyone who brings me their reading list on the first day of school gets a free book. And anyone who reads more pages than me in the summer also gets a GOLDEN LIBRARY CARD, which is really just their regular card with a gold sticker on it, but it comes with unlimited book checkout for the school year. You would not believe how motivating that is for kids. And it's a lot of fun for me, too.
Mrs. Wojahn Reads
So what are your favorite reading sites? Not just for kids, but for us grown-ups, too? After all, summer is our reading season, too. Share them in the comments here, or, if you're on Twitter, shout out your summer reading plans to the world. Katherine Schulten over on the Learning Network at the New York Times invites you to take to Twitter and share your thoughts, book recommendations, and ideas about #summerreading on June 7.
I can't wait to tune in. Preferably with the grass mowed, lemonade in hand, and the grill fired up. (The June bugs I can do without.)