A librarian through and through, Virginia Allain writes about book topics, researching, and information for library users and librarians.
Coping with Assigned Summer Reading
Kids hate it, while parents and librarians dread it. Assigned summer reading lists cause headaches for all concerned.
There's no simple solution, but after years of dealing with it in the public library, I have some suggestions.
Why is it such a problem? First of all, kids want to goof off during the summer and spend time at the pool or lazing in front of the television. Should they be allowed to ignore reading all summer? No. Teachers and librarians know that the child or teen who ignores books all summer slips further and further behind in their reading level.
Parents dread the assigned summer reading list because they know how hard it is to browbeat their child into reading the required books. Librarians know they'll have difficulty providing enough copies for all the students who usually wait to request the book the week before school starts.
Read on for some ways your library can meet the demand for assigned summer reading titles. I've included some tips for parents to ease the process too.
Classics That Often Show Up on Assigned Summer Reading Lists - And How to Encourage Your Child or Teen to Read Them
What Parents Can Do to Encourage Summer Reading in Their Child
- Get the list when the student brings it home from school. Check the number of books the student is required to read.
- Plan with the student when to start the books so there is plenty of time to finish. Check on availability of the books at the public library or in local bookstores or online.
- Place a reserve on the book at the public library early in the summer or buy the copies. Sometimes the list is the same year-after-year, so check with any student a year ahead of yours. They may have copies of the books from the previous summer and could lend them to you.
- Get the student involved in the public library's summer reading program. It is geared to making reading fun for kids and often there is a competition and prizes to read more books. The assigned reading can be part of the fun reading for the reading club.
- If the assigned books are classics, look for them on Amazon in the Kindle version. Some are free for downloading to your home computer or even to a cell phone. You don't have to own a Kindle reading device. Download the Kindle for PC or the Kindle App for the phone. That is free.
- Offer a reward for reading the book(s) by a certain deadline or for reading a certain amount of pages each day. Maybe it could be a trip to the pool or freedom from an assigned chore or even money.
Helping Reluctant Readers Fall in Love with Reading
Learn More about Motivating Kids to Read
These books are available at public libraries and from Amazon and other book stores.
- Keeping Kids Reading: How to Raise Avid Readers in the Video Age
- What To Do When Your Child Hates To Read: Motivating the Reluctant Reader (Effective Parenting Books)
- Motivating Teen and Preteen Readers: How Teachers and Parents Can Lead the Way
- How to Raise a Reader: You Can Help Your Child Read Well and Enjoy it More
- I Can Do That With My Kid: Family Activities That Encourage Reading, Writing, Communicating and a Positive Self-Esteem
- Reading Maniac - Fun Ways To Encourage Reading Success
- Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers
Help Struggling Readers
Ways the Library Can Meet the Demand for Reading List Books
- Contact the schools before the end of the school year. Request copies of the reading lists for the summer.
- Check the list against your holdings. How many of the books do you own and how many copies of each title? Order copies of ones you don't have unless they are too obscure.
Put the call number on the list and keep the lists in a notebook at the reference desk. This saves a lot of time when readers come in requesting the books.
- Check with the schools. If their libraries are inaccessible during the summer, try to arrange for borrowing their copies of the reading list books for student use at the public library.
- Give a copy of the reading list to local bookstores so they can stock in paperback copies of the top titles. They will appreciate the heads up (and the chance to sell a few books).
- We found one way to make the books available to more students was to put one copy of each on HOLD at one of the service desks. Students could read that copy only in the library and had to leave their library card while they were using the book.
This prevented the problem of a student checking out the only copy early in the summer and not returning it.
- Install Kindle for PC on the public computers at the library. Many classic titles are available for free on Kindle. Download these from Amazon to the Kindle for PC where students can read them in the library.
Make a flyer telling how the students can get the Kindle app for their phone or home computer. Have this ready to hand out when disappointed parents and students have a meltdown because the book isn't on the shelf when they come to the library.
- Make another flyer with the addresses of nearby libraries and bookstores.
- DO NOT feature the books in a display. Such a display leads others to pick up the books, leaving even fewer for the students who are required to read them.
Motivating Reluctant Readers
Ways for Teachers to Make Summer Reading a Better Experience
- Check that the books for the list are still in-print. It is very difficult for students to get copies or for libraries to order copies if a book is out-of-print.
- Provide the public library with a copy of the list. The earlier, the better, so they have time to order titles that they don't have.
- If it is a hardship for students to get the books (financially or due to the lack of a public library), look for alternate ways to provide the students with the required books.
- Consider choosing classic titles that are available free on Kindle. Tell the students how to get the Kindle app for their cell phone or download the Kindle for PC software for their home computer. Keep in mind that not all students will have access to a cell phone or a computer or Internet access.
- Look for small grants that can be used to buy paperback copies of the assigned book for all the students. Sometimes Wal-Mart gives such grants. The Rotary Club or your Parent Teachers organization might be able to help. Even an appeal in the local newspaper might turn up a donor.
More Information for Teachers and Librarians
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Virginia Allain
What's Your Experience with Assigned Summer Reading Lists?
Frischy from Kentucky, USA on June 24, 2014:
Our problem is trying to access the books in braille. With a limited number of braille copies, yet so many students needing them for summer reading, there is a huge logistics problem. After all, we can't run down to the local bookstore and pick up a copy. I so wish we could! That seems like it would be so easy!
Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on April 28, 2013:
@Gypzeerose: Great idea. Reading aloud as a family can be a great bonding experience.
Rose Jones on April 28, 2013:
Even though my kids are bigger, I would love to take some books on a summer vacation and read it to them.