Encouraging Nonfiction Reading During the Summer

Every year we purchase reading tote bags for all of our students. On one of the last days of the school year, we allow students to check out up to ten (10) books to take home and read. We reopen our library once a month during the summer, which allows students and families up to three times to check in old books and check out new ones.

The biggest expense in this initiative is not the books or the minimal staffing to run the program. It’s purchasing the tote bags which run around $1 a piece. They are necessary as we have found a number of students have nowhere to store their books once they bring them home. It’s an effort in being more culturally responsive, as we work in a Title I school.

This year we receive a donation from an energy distribution company. The funds have to be used toward science and mathematics education. This led to developing a slightly different approach to encouraging reading during the summer months. We will now ask all of our students to select at least five (5) nonfiction books out of the ten books they would pick for the summer months. Below is a screenshot of that letter.


By taking this approach, we are utilizing available funds in a smart way as well as encouraging students to read more widely during their summer vacation. Time will tell what if any impact this change might have on student reading engagement and achievement.

What does your school do to promote summer reading? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. He tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

9 thoughts on “Encouraging Nonfiction Reading During the Summer”

  1. I can’t fathom your 3-month-long school break. Even our six weeks over summer can be a long time for students. Your reading initiative is a great one though. I hope many students make use of the opportunity to read material of their own choice. I am not aware of schools here, in Australia, running any such programs. However some might. I used to send notes home to parents suggesting how they could include reading, writing, and maths into their everyday activities. I now make these available free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and soon on my website.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. It seems a very long time. What do teachers do during the break? Is it a 3-month holiday for them or are there expectations other than the preparations which most teachers do independently during the breaks?


    1. In the U.S. most teachers are paid for 10 months and are temporarily unemployed during the break. Teachers often take a second job, travel, or complete work tasks on their own time. In the state I teach in students are out around 2 1/2 months. Our school library opened up for twelve hours a week during the summer a few years ago but very few children and parents used the service probably because of lack of transportation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow! It must be difficult for teachers to budget when they are paid for only 10 months of the year. In Australia we are paid throughout the holidays. I guess the salary is spread out to cover those weeks. Many teachers spend the holidays preparing lessons and resources for the following term or year though, and there are mandatory professional development days, as well as many others that teachers attend of their own choice.
        How disappointing it must have been to open the library and have few visitors. I wonder if they were not aware of the the service provided, or if they used other library facilities. I can’t imagine going for 2 1/2 months without reading.
        Thanks for sharing this additional information. It is certainly interesting.


  2. What a great idea. Here in Texas, the students have about 10 weeks off. A long time to go with no reading. Although I don’t think I have time to order the book bags, I don’t see any reason I can’t let the children check out the books. Thank you for sharing.


    1. Nan, I am glad you are making this change on behalf of your students and families. The cost is minimal. We pay our library aide to come in for three hours a month to check in and check out the titles. It does help that we are city school and most of our students can walk to the LMC. Best of luck!


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