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The Reading Coach

Independent Reading


Summertime is a natural time to encourage independent reading. But don't wait until the school year ends; combine reading, goal setting, and motivation in an independent reading plan for students in grades 1-12. The four-week+ plan below allows for 20 minutes of instruction twice a week:

Week 1, Day 1

  • Create ability-based groups based on reading groups or most recent assessment.
  • Create a web or wheel graphic organizer with "summer" at its center. Print the organizer and provide a copy to each student.
  • During the first five minutes, students brainstorm individually and jot down ideas on the organizer. Student task: List favorite summer activities (swimming, camping, traveling, working, and so on). The teacher circulates to help students stay on task and cultivate ideas.
  • Identify one child in each group as facilitator to direct discussion. During the next ten minutes, students in each group discuss and add to ideas generated by individual group members.
  • During the last five minutes, each student finalizes his or her own organizer, then looks for another student to help if time allows.

Week 1, Day 2

  • Provide each student with another blank organizer (the same one or another of your favorites). For the first five minutes, students individually brainstorm to identify terms and issues they associate with summertime reading.
  • Next, use a whole-group approach to expand student thinking and encourage everyone's input. Post reference lists (books about concepts students will cover next school year, school-required summer reading books, books related to the hottest movies, books on lists of local summer reading programs, magazine subscriptions, and so on). If students already know specific books they want to read, they list those as well. Discuss negative concepts associated with summertime reading. ("It's boring!," for example.)
  • During the last five minutes, students finalize their organizers. The teacher collects both organizers. (NOTE: Before the next session, search for common themes -- vacation plans, reading interests, hobbies, and so on -- among student webs. Use those connections to create the following weeks' teams.)

Additional Resources

Education World Resources
* Summer Reading Lists Abound on the Web
* Summer Reading Lists
* Summer Book-tivities (Hot Summer Reading)

Resources to Share with Parents
* Summertime Reading Adventures, Reading is Fundamental's Advice for Parents
* Summer Reading Refreshers from Sylvan Learning Center
* 10 Weeks of Summer Reading Adventures from PBS's Reading Rockets
* Laura Bush's Recommended Reading
* Tips for Parents from The American Library Association
* Teen Reading Incentive Ideas

Week 2, Day 1
Return to students' previously created organizers. Based on a review of the organizers, pair students with similar interests and similar planned summertime activities. Visit the school media center or public library. Invite students to use their organizers as a guide to search the library -- as well as online bookstores or library catalogs -- for titles they're interested in. Students list specific reading materials, based on their discoveries.

Week 2: Day 2
Working with the same teams as on the previous day, students help one another draft a summer reading plan with these components:

  • The number of books they will read or the amount of time they will spend reading this summer. (Set a reasonable classroom minimum.)
  • The titles and authors of materials they'll read.
  • Sources of the reading materials (borrow from the library, borrow from friends, purchase, and so on)*
  • Three student-recommended rewards for meeting their goals.
  • A specific plan of action with interim mini-goals.
*If several students are interested in books not readily available, use a writing assignment to teach the format for a business request or thank you note. Groups can ask the public or school library to order a particular book, or students can solicit support from a local business to help purchase the book for the school or classroom library.

Send the draft reading plan home with each student. Explain that their assignment is to discuss the plan with their parents and make a note of edits, concerns, and new ideas. Students also should indicate which reward for meeting those goals they've selected.

Week 3, Day 1
Students create a border for their final plan using brightly colored paper or their own art. They incorporate into the plan blanks where they can list what they read, lines for student and parent signatures, and all other needed components.

Option: As a technology lesson in word processing or publishing, encourage students to use a computer to create, edit, and finalize their reading plan
Have students execute the "contract" with their parents and then return a copy to you. They should keep the original for summertime use.
With parental permission, set up a summertime e-mail to encourage student progress. Otherwise, recommend that students communicate with other students in their group.
Coordinate with next year's teachers to provide a beginning-of-school reward for students who meet their goals.

Week 3, Day 2 through Week 6 (or end of school)
Set aside 20 minutes for independent reading twice weekly until the end of the school year.
As part of end-of-year festivities, celebrate student progress to date and encourage continuing progress. Also, provide parents with tips for incorporating reading into their summer plans.
Use the same strategy throughout the next school year to encourage reading inside -- and outside -- the classroom.

About the Author

Known as the "Literacy Ambassador," Cathy Puett Miller has a library science degree from Florida State University. Her writing appears in such print publications as Atlanta Our Kids, Omaha Family, and Georgia Journal of Reading, and online at Literacy Connections,,Education World,Family Network, and BabyZone. Be sure to visit Cathy's Web site at Click to read a complete bio.