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Thinking beyond the (summer) list
I hadn’t thought about it till today, but our summer reading list is a snooze. A dinosaur.
A relic of a time when reading lists looked like, well, reading lists.
Today, two things woke me up.
1. Finished with her AP exam, Sierra asked me for a book recommendation. I excitedly booktalked Libba Bray’s The Diviners. Without responding to my jumping-up-and-down excitement, Sierra whipped out her mobile. She calmly scanned the barcode of the book I held in my hands to see if the GoodReads community agreed with my assessment. They did. And after examining ratings, reviews, images and quotes, Sierra decided to take the book.
2. I happened upon the media-rich, interactive Choices Summer Reading list created by Elissa Malespina, the teacher librarian at South Orange (NJ) Middle School. It offers the usual–suggestions for fiction, nonfiction, classics, graphic novels along with her students’ summer reading assignments.
It was definitely nonsnooze. And it was far more suited to a student like Sierra, than what I called a reading list.
I got over my jealousy, contacted Elissa and chatted with her about how she moved her summer reading list beyond listiness.
She shared her goal:
I wanted students and parents to realize just how great these books are. It is my one of my primary jobs as a librarian to make reading fun and exciting for my students. My hope was that this interactive summer reading would help to make that happen.
The early history of the list, formerly a Word Doc, is familiar.
Every year the public and school librarians from South Orange and Maplewood, NJ sit down to come up with a list of suggested books for our students to read during the summer. In the middle grades they get to choose two books from the list and have to do an assignment.Every year we go back to the list and revise it and add and delete items from it. We then print it out and give it to our students and post a PDF version on line.
I wanted to have book trailers built into it. I wanted to have links to the suggested authors websites. I wanted to have author interviews and video footage from some of the historical events talked about in some of the books.But I also needed it to be able be made into a PDF that could be downloaded by people.
I’ll bet there are hundreds of new ways to build it, to connect it, to make it live. I picture posters with QR codes on bulletin boards all over our communities leading parents and kids to our recommended reads.
So, are you proud of your list? Do you have new summer strategies? Does your list speak to readers like Sierra?
Please lead us to more new models of effective practice. And please share how you are reinventing the summer reading list in Comments!
About Joyce Valenza
Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza
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