Summer Reading-Ready, Set, Go!

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
Sir Francis Bacon English author, courtier, & philosopher (1561-1626)

Ah, Summer!  It’s a great time to relax and forget all about school for a while, right?  WRONG!  Learning is a year-round proposition, and your students need to keep their brains active even in the summer time.  Teachers everywhere will thank you if you at least encourage your kids to read and respond to a few books during the school vacation.  Summer reading is actually a vital part of education!  Here are some ideas to encourage your middle and high school readers, especially if they are college-bound.  A well-read student is much more likely to succeed at those high-stakes tests and at upper level classes.  Being widely-read also builds writing skills and vocabulary skills, which are also essential to success.  Check out some of these titles this summer, and don’t stop with simply reading them.

Be sure to insist that your student responds to the book in some fashion, as well.  This is the purpose of the traditional book report, but that’s far from your only option.  Try making a newspaper related to the story, writing a diary for a character or a series of letters between characters, putting on a play, doing a book review, making a time line, filling in a graphic organizer or designing a poster or book jacket.  You could even create a museum display about the book!  Let your imagination run wild to make the most of summer reading, and READ, READ, READ!

  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London (reading level 4.0) is a classic story of a pampered city dog suddenly thrust into the life-or-death world of the Yukon in the gold rush era.  The book will be of interest to older elementary students on up and may particularly appeal to boys with its high dose of adventure and action.
  • Jane Eyre  by Charlotte Bronte is a hefty dose of character study wrapped in Victorian times.  Get lost in the story of Jane’s life and times.  The reading level is 7.9 and the appeal is likely to be high school girls.
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes is a not-to-be-missed classic.  Readers will recognize a host of sayings that have slipped into everyday language while they laugh at the adventures of Don Quixote and his servant.  For deeper thinkers, it is quite a commentary on the social rules of the day and on chivalry.  The reading level is high at 13.2, but for good readers, it’s not to be missed.
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is another classic that your student should read before the end of high school.  The love story is set in the 1920′s and features a wealthy man and his infatuation with a beautiful young lady.  The reading level is 7.3 and the interest level is generally high school.
  • The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe C.S. Lewis creates a fanciful world inside a piece of furniture in this classic fantasy novel.  The reading level is 5.7 and the story is likely to appeal to nearly everyone.  It also makes a great read-aloud book for younger or less able readers.  The book is actually the second in the series, so if your students like it, try to find the rest-they are well worth the effort.

Of course there are literally millions of other choices out there.  Don’t be shy about asking teachers, librarians or book store workers for suggestions that will be exactly right for your student.  Make it a priority and your child will reap huge benefits down the road.

Super Spelling Practice

If your child is in elementary school, chances are very good that you see a spelling list coming home each week.  The school usually provides worksheets and assignments designed to organize practice on the words, but that may not be enough.  If your child still seems to be struggling with spelling, tip the balance in favor of success with these additional ideas.  They tap into other learning modalities, and many students have greater success when they use them.  You can even try an experiment: Use different activities on different weeks for a bit and see which tests end up with better scores.  You (and your student) may learn a lot about learning style and effective study strategies!  The information will be invaluable down the road when preparing for tests in high school and college.

Important Reminder:  Many people lose sight of an important fact.  Spelling, as used in writing and on spelling tests, is a written task.  For many students, oral practice just doesn’t do much good.  If your student is still struggling in spite of lots of oral practice, it’s time to change the game plan.  You’ll find more success and less frustration if you practice in the same manner (visual and kinesthetic) that the student will need to respond in school.

Rainbow Writing:  Use a large piece of paper and copy the word in large print with a black marker.  Allow the student to trace the letters again and again in different colors, creating a rainbow effect.

Ransom Note Spelling:  Cut letters from old newspapers and magazines and glue them in place to spell the list words.

Yarn Spelling: Write the words in large letters on paper, then glue a strand of fuzzy yarn on the letters.  Trace the yarn letters with a finger to continue practicing.

Use Your Computer: Practice typing the list words on a word processor.

Concrete Spelling: Use magnetic letters, alphabet cereal or macaroni, or other three dimensional letters to spell list words.

Try Word Shapes: Sometimes troublesome words can be cued using word shapes and letter boxes.  Draw a box around each letter, using a tall box for tall letters like k and d, a short box for short letters like a and e, and a hanging-down box for letters with tails like p and y.  The result will be a relatively unique outline for each word.  Sometimes this outline can be a trigger to recall the spelling.  It’s a good way to tell the difference between “where” and “were” for example.

Find Small Words Inside Big Ones: Help students with letter sequencing problems by looking for smaller, familiar words inside larger ones.  For example, knowing that the word “bulletin” contains the word “bull” will help a child remember that there are 2 L’s in the word.

Want to practice online?  Here are some sites that allow you to put in your own spelling list, then play games or make worksheets:


Don’t forget that I love to make new friends! If you have education questions or would like to see a topic addressed in this blog, please leave a comment below!