“Read Harder” this Summer

It’s hard to believe it’s truly already time to begin planning for summer. My seniors have a countdown on my board of how many days of school they have remaining…. 8 DAYS!!! It’s absolutely insane how quickly this first year of teaching has flown by and how much has been accomplished in Mrs. Krueger’s classroom. It’s easy to for me to think to myself, “Well, I’ve done it! I’ve survived my first year of teaching. Now I can wipe my hands of this craziness until August of next year. I’m free for the summer!” However, I know how much I want my kiddos to continue to grow and learn over the summer. Research shows HOW IMPORTANT it is for our students to continue reading over the summer. In Donalyn Miller’s blog post, she shared a very important bit of research:

No matter what children accomplish during the school year, if they don’t read over the summer, their learning stalls or regresses (Cooper, Borman, & Fairchild, 2010).

So…as tempting as it is to think that I’m “clocking out” for a few months at the end of the school year…my job most definitely IS NOT done on May 23. The summer is when I will see just how much my students were impacted by their independent reading progress over the past year. The summer is when my students can see just how influential reading can be in their lives. The summer is when students can learn how to be intrinsically motivated to achieve their own reading and learning goals.

One way that I’m hoping to motivate my students (and I’ll be honest…myself!) to continue reading this summer is to engage them in a summer reading challenge. The #1 thing that I’ve learning about high schoolers this year (well, one of MANY things I’ve learned about high schoolers) is that most of them are absolutely fueled by challenges. Framing anything in terms of a competition is a sure fire way to have them engaged in the activity, even when there is no “prize” at the end. Winning a reading challenge means winning self-satisfaction at your own accomplishment. There is no candy or pizza party waiting for them at the end.

I absolutely love the concept behind Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. For our last bookriot-logo-1Independent Reading day of the school year (a sacred day that I’ve done my best to reserve solely for choice, independent reading) I’ll be distributing copies of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge to my three sections of English 11 and my Independent Reading course. I’m wanting my students to reflect on their individual growth in their reading skills over the past year and to continue thinking about reading as a skill they can hone and master.

As I begin to mentally plan for next year, one thing that I know I want to do differently is to do a better job of modeling my own reading for my students. I’ve mentioned that I have a little display section in the room where I place a copy of the book I’m currently reading; however, I haven’t given book talks about what I’m reading, and only really make recommendations to students who I can visually see struggling to choose a novel. I want to be better about portraying my excitement for reading so that reading become infectious in my classroom. One way that I would like to do that is to engage myself and my students in the Read Harder Challenge or similar reading challenges. I think it would be an amazing way to connect with kids over literature. Students can see me crossing items off my reading challenge checklist, leading to a great opportunity to have discussions about which novels they chose to cross of on their own lists.

I’m not too worried about motivating myself to read this summer. I’ll be honest, my summer reading habit is comparable to Netflix binge-watching habits- I have to force myself to stop reading at times just so I’ll actually get something productive done. I love to read while laying in bed in the morning, outside laying on a blanket, in the car during road trips, on the couch on rainy days, and pretty much any other time that I can manage. However, I’ve never tried is engaging in a reading challenge. Typically my summer reading habits have involved at least one Harry Potter novel (Hey! Re-reading is an okay thing to do, remember?), a book-turned-movie, or New York Times best-seller. This summer I would like to add to that list by reading some of the many amazing recommendations I’ve received from my classmates and by starting a couple of reading challenges. I’ve mentioned that I’ll be starting the Read Harder Challenge when I logo-header-taleawaychallenge my own students at the end of the year. I also want to begin the incredible “World Reading Challenge” found on the Tale Away blog. (Seriously- if you love traveling and reading as much as I do, you NEED to check out the Tale Away blog!)

While I have many novels that I’ve planned to read this summer, the biggest one on my list (literally…I’m talking 3.5 pounds of paper here…) is War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. Arguably the most central work of Western literature, this mammoth novel completes TWO items on the Read Harder Challenge (“A 65edeba0-0870-11e7-a692-050901070303-compressedbook set in or about one of the five BRICS countries” and “A book of genre fiction in translation”) and crosses off Russia on the Tale Away World Reading Challenge. I am already planning that this novel will take me THE ENTIRE SUMMER to read. It’s a daunting 1,200 pages of classic historical fiction- this is not a novel that would cross “A one-sitting book” off of the Read Harder Challenge. However, I want to read this novel for many reasons. First of all, I’ll actually be traveling to Russia in June so I feel like reading War and Peace will be a great way to connect with the literary and historical culture of that complex country. (And, come on, how cool would it be to take a selfie while reading War and Peace on the steps of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow?? That’s some Instagram magic in the making.) Secondly, I’m always encouraging my students to read something that challenges them. While I preach this constantly, I’m not sure that I can recall the last time I was truly mentally exercised by a piece of literature. Finally, I sort of want to cross it off my mental list of “I should probably read that classic some day.” In any case, I’m up for the challenge and I’ll definitely be sharing that goal with my students, hoping to inspire them in their summer reading as well.

продолжайте читать мои друзья! – Keep reading, my friends!


2 thoughts on ““Read Harder” this Summer

  1. Hi, Bailey, thanks for an interesting post. Wow! War and Peace. I applaud your dedication. I have not read this book, but I actually do want to. The size of a book doesn’t really ever make me not want to read a book. If the book is good, I sometimes never want it to end. I like your idea of displaying the books you are reading with your students. I was struggling to figure out a way to have kids read over the summer. I like your idea of giving them a challenge. I may have to try that.


  2. How exciting to travel to Russia! I’ve started War & Peace five or six times and never get very far–but I am hopeful that eventually it will click and I will get through it. I love Anna Karenina, so I do know that Tolstoy CAN be for me. I love all your reading plans and your ideas for challenges.


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