How can diving into some good literature this summer make things easier for students in the fall? Here are a few different areas where regular reading can help bridge gaps and bring joy.
1) Diverse Summer Reading Can Help Students Feel Seen and Heard
As Max Silverman, director of the Center for Educational Leadership (CEL), notes in his article for Education week, allowing students the opportunity to speak and be heard is a critical component when addressing issues of learning loss or groups of students being underserved during this pandemic. Another way for students, especially those who are marginalized, to feel seen and represented is through media, particularly books. Rudine Sims Bishop, a multicultural education scholar, has spoken at length about how books can serve as ‘mirrors’, for children who can find within a text a reflection of their communities, their families, and themselves. Reading about empowered characters who look and feel like them can provide students with a sense of belonging and agency that they may be lacking after this period of isolation or lost connection.
2) Broad Summer Reading Can Help Students Develop Social-Emotional Skills
One aspect of bringing students back into a classroom setting is fostering a growth mindset through curiosity. The desire to explore is an excellent, driving force that can motivate many students, and adventuring through broad, diverse reading can actually help students develop critical social-emotional skills as well as new knowledge. Using literature as a ‘window’ allows students to stand firm in their own experiences and identity while engaging with people, places, and situations outside their current worldview. Numerous studies have shown that individuals who regularly engage with narrative fiction are more likely to have more developed social-emotional skills and greater empathy for others. Promoting social-emotional skills and broadening horizons through reading this summer will help students acquire the tools they’ll need in the coming school year.
3) Independent Summer Reading Can Give Students Choice, Freedom, and a Sense of Achievement
For students who are old enough to engage in independent reading, the activity can reflect a student's personal choices in terms of reading material and time spent with that material. Students who read independently on a regular basis will develop a sense that they are in control of their own reading habits and educational development, which in turn fosters feelings of agency and achievement. By young children getting to select a book that's being read to them, helps to increase: independence, self-esteem, critical thinking abilities, memory, and other skills. Students who know what they love to learn about will have higher levels of confidence and motivation when encountering those subjects in a school setting. This can give students a head start when it comes to the growing focus on inquiry-based, student-driven models of learning.
So, whether your focus is on helping students find representation, cope with learning loss, or develop social-emotional skills, it seems that promoting independent reading is the best place to start. Assisting students in their attempts to read regularly and broadly this summer can boost motivation, curiosity, and confidence, all things that are sorely needed as we enter into the new normal of primary and secondary education.