The Insiders Guide to Education
A RITES blog by Learning Specialist and Education Advocate Saskia Nilsen, MSE
There is nothing worse than finally having time to relax and have fun or even to read the books you want to read, and then being assigned a list of summer reading books. Here are the top 10 strategies to help you make it through your assigned summer reading list:
1. Start with a “palate cleanser” Read the book you have been waiting to read all year first or any book that is not on your list. Consider a cheesy or easy read like your favorite novel from elementary school or the books you see people reading at the beach. Starting with a book of your choice is a good way to get over resenting having to wait to read what you want.
2. If you have a choice, do your research on which of the books on the list will be best for you. Consider length, difficulty, subject, author’s style, etc. to find the books that will be the least painful for you to read. Reading the summary of the books on Spark Notes is a great way to find out which book might be more interesting to you, but not a replacement for actually reading the book. A trip to the bookstore to read the first chapter of each of the books might also be a good way to test the waters. Sometimes you will find that a book in summary does not sound appealing, but once you are wrapped up in the author’s style of writing, the subject comes alive.
3. Read along with the audio file is not cheating if you actually are reading along word for word as you listen. Having the voice of the reader or actor in your head while you read can help you pay more attention to the nuances of a novel and keep you going. Most books have audio files you can download or check out from your local library on CD or on an MP3 player. This is a great active reading strategy because of the multiple inputs – both audio and visual.
4. Read with a friend (or parent) or even create a book club. The problem with summer reading is that there is often little accountability to keep you on target or no built-in opportunity to discuss the book in-depth. Just as working out with a buddy keeps you motivated and on-track, reading with a buddy provides accountability to stay on-target and provides someone to bounce off ideas as you read. You are more likely to remember what you read if you describe the last chapter you read to your parents at dinner or quiz a friend over FaceTime about the details of the last chapter. Pretend you are an English teacher and make up literary analysis questions for each other. Or, just use questions from the Internet and answer them together.
5. Avoid procrastination! Set a reading schedule, complete with deadlines and rewards at the start of the summer, making sure you have enough time to finish your entire list of assigned reading. Make sure to include weekly deadlines with specific numbers of chapters to be read or pages to accomplish. If you have an assignment for each book, be sure to schedule time to complete these assignments as you finish each book, not at the end of the summer when you have forgotten what you read. It is OK to take a vacation from summer reading, but it should not be more than a week or two. The most important part of a reading schedule with clear goals and deadlines is the rewards part. What do I get if I finish a book on time? (A day at the beach, a special meal, a weekend off from reading, etc.) The best rewards don’t have to be big; they just have to be special to you.
6. If you have to read a book you just can’t stand, plan to write a “why I hated this book” review. Thinking about how you would write this as you read will help you make it through and pay attention to the details; collect evidence so you can prove your argument that no other high school student should be forced to read this book ever again. Hating a book takes passion, and you can put that passion to good use!
7. Mix it up and alternate between an assigned book and a book you want to read. Avoid reading all the same type of books in a row. If you have been reading novels, find an engaging biography or nonfiction book. Grab a graphic novel or magazine to keep your reading brain flexible and tuned up between the required books you have to dive into.
8. Watch the movie as a reward after you finish the book. Comparing the movie to the book is a great way to analyze a book at a higher level because you have to think about why the director made the choices s/he did and whether you might have gone in a different direction if you were in charge. If you have to read Shakespeare, there are usually multiple versions on film that make the comparison game even more interesting.
9. Read in the morning to avoid falling asleep while reading before you go to sleep. If you find yourself falling asleep without making enough progress in the book because your tired brain just can’t stay engaged, read first thing when you wake up and don’t allow yourself to go on with your day until you completed your goal.
10. Don’t let summer reading ruin your summer fun. Get it over with! Realize with a little motivation and proactivity, you can get it out of the way in less than an hour a day, leaving plenty of time for summer fun.
Looking for something more? Learn more about Rhode Island Tutorial and Educational Services award-winning summer programs at all grade levels and features fun and engaging learning for students at all levels.