Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Text Sets and Summer Reading

Summer reading can be a source of anxiety for parents, teachers, and students. Avid readers who want to read books of choice all summer  get frustrated when school-selected texts are imposed on them. Reluctant readers who can't wait to get out of school so that they can play, make things, and explore the outdoors, or go to day camp each day to swim, learn a new craft, and take field trips, resent having to sit down and read, particularly when it's a school-selected text. Parents want their children reading, and rely on the pressures of required summer reading to make it happen. Or, parents want their children reading, and resent the imposition of required summer reading. Each school district and community has a different set of expectations.

But you know who often gets summer reading "just right?" The librarians. There are many school librarians who allow students to take upwards of 20 books (or more) home for the summer. Others open their doors periodically over the summer to allow students to swap out books. Public librarians take part in the summer reading programs offered by the American Library Association, and find all sorts of ways to bring kids and their families into the library for fun and creative programming. Public libraries across America are the heart of civic and community life. It's no different in summer, simply warmer.

For all of these reasons, I was excited to hear about a summer reading collaboration in the works between the Cambridge, Massachusetts Public Library system and the Cambridge Public Schools. This year, the summer reading program at the public library will focus on STEM topics. To capitalize on this focus, and to encourage students to read in a range of genres, particularly nonfiction, the school librarians developed multimodal, multigenre text sets on different topics for different grade levels. These books are not required reading, but rather suggested readings on topics students will be exposed to in the coming year. This way, if a student reads one text on the topic and finds it interesting, s/he has a range of others to explore. The text sets make it easier for students, once hooked on a topic, to just keep on reading. And because a range of texts have been selected, students can read a survey book of nonfiction to get familiar with a topic, and then an experiment or activity book that will allow him/her to put that knowledge to work. Once school starts back up again, students can put their newly developed science knowledge to work.

The public school librarians have posted the lists on the Cambridge Public Schools website, but the lists will also be available to children and families from the Cambridge Public Library site and at the public library. In essence, these text sets are summer reading pathways, rather than summer reading lists.

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