Summer reading is an important component of an overall reading program. Research shows that summer vacation often has a significant negative effect on student learning. Providing opportunities for students to read regularly during the summer can prevent documented reading achievement losses. The bottom line is that students who read during the summer do better in the fall.
A June literacy fair for students and their families is the perfect way to end the school year and get students off on the right track for the summer. In addition to standard carnival fare (face painting, games of chance, etc.), offer a variety of fun literacy-based activities.
- The cost of entrance? Ask students to bring a lightly used book as an entrance pass, to be collected on a table or display. As students leave, each person can select a book to keep from the donations.
- Hold a literary trivia contest, with new, donated books for prizes.
- Invite an author to your school for a book reading/signing event.
- Don't forget to invite families to your event and to include informational material.
This NCTE page is the perfect place to begin looking for summer reading resources. Teachers can find links to teaching ideas, lesson plans, booklists, professional reading, and related NCTE resources.
From ReadWriteThink, this section of the site is designed for parents, caregivers, and tutors, and includes activities and other resources to use with children and teens over the summer months.
Reading Rockets provides ideas to keep kids reading during vacation. There are activities and tips on encouraging children to love reading.
Each year, thousands of children, young adults, teachers, and librarians around the United States select their favorite recently published books for the “Choices” booklists. These lists are used in classrooms, libraries, and homes to help young readers find books they will enjoy.
Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play Major League Baseball, was born on this date in 1919. Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and played for the team for nine years. He was voted the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1949, and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. Robinson died October 24, 1972.
In addition to his role as an athlete, Robinson fought publicly to end racial discrimination for others. The U.S. National Archive collection Beyond the Playing Field-Jackie Robinson, Civil Rights Advocate includes messages Robinson sent to the White House from 1957 to 1972. After reading these messages, have students discuss Robinson's attributes as both an athlete and a civil rights activist. They can use the interactive Bio-Cube to organize the information about Robinson. More tips are available for use with the Bio-Cube.
Once your students have a sense of who Robinson was, expand your discussion to the more general issue of the role of athletes in society. Brainstorm a list of attributes important to being a good athlete in any sport at any level of play. Then, in groups, have students select one of the attributes and write about how that character trait would be useful in other areas of life. For instance, a high degree of dedication certainly translates outside of the sports arena. In what other walks of life might dedication be an essential characteristic?
This Library of Congress site presents information about the life and career of Jackie Robinson as well as highlights from a century of baseball.
This Baseball Hall of Fame Web page offers statistics about Robinson's career and his other contributions to baseball.
Jackie Robinson and many other extraordinary athletes had been playing in the Negro Baseball League for years before Robinson broke the "color barrier" in the Major Leagues. This site offers information about the history of the Negro Leagues, as well as information about the museum itself.
Read about the life of Jackie Robinson in this interview with his wife, Rachel Robinson, from Scholastic. Robinson answered questions from students during a 1998 live interview.
Ezra Jack Keats wrote and illustrated more than 85 children's books. His beautifully written and illustrated story, The Snowy Day, won a Caldecott medal in 1963. Peter, an African American child who is the hero of The Snowy Day, is the main character of seven other books by Keats.
Although Ezra Jack Keats had no formal training in art, his illustrations won many awards. As you read his books to your class, point out that his illustrations are a combination of painting and collage. In celebration of his birthday, invite your students to be authors and illustrators. Have them write their own stories that include some characters from Keats' books. The stories can be done individually or in groups. Ask students to bring in scraps of materials to create their collages.
Have students practice using collage techniques with the Collage Machine at the National Gallery of Art. Step through the pictures available in the tool to show the options for adding images to collages that go beyond color blocks. Look at the ways to manipulate the images (reducing or enlarging their size, flipping and layering images and so on) in order to demonstrate options students can explore in original collages.
The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation provides this resource, perfect for an author study on Keats. Students of all ages will enjoy reading his biography with photographs and hyperlinks. The page on tips and resources offers suggestions on using Keats' books to enhance literacy.
This online exhibit is provided by the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. Visitors will find proofs for 37 books written and/or illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats, his personal papers, fan mail, and more! There is a link to Keats Across the Curriculum which includes activities and Internet resources for many of his books.
The Snowy Day is possibly one of Keats' best-known and beloved stories. This Teaching Heart webpage is filled with suggestions for teaching this children's literature classic.
Introduce a snowy day center with a three-step project.
As a child growing up in Holland, Leo Lionni taught himself how to draw. He earned a doctorate in economics from the University of Genoa, but began his career as an author and illustrator of children's books in 1959. His first book Little Blue and Little Yellow came from a story written for his grandchildren during a boring train ride. He is the winner of four Caldecott awards.
After reading several of Lionni's stories, play the game Guess the Story. Invite a student to pull a sentence strip that describes one of Lionni's messages from a box. (Older students can create the sentence strips in collaborative groups.) Students should explain what the message means and the book it is from. Some suggested messages include the following:
- Let's work together.
- Take time to smell the roses.
- You are never alone when you have a friend.
- Don't take your family for granted.
- Everybody is special.
- Be happy with who you are.
As a follow-up, have your students write and illustrate their messages with the ReadWriteThink Stapleless Book.
This site gives an excellent introduction to children in grades K through 5 about Leo Lionni’s life, his art work, and his children’s books. The site includes excellent printable activities and videos of Lionni’s art making process.
This packet contains a variety of useful activities made by teachers, for teachers to accompany the Leo Lionni books, as well as original artwork on display at the Castellani Art Museum.
This page provides information about Leo Lionni's life and learns how experiences and events in his life influenced on his work.
Circle this date on your calendar! Picture book author Laura Joffe Numeroff was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1953. Her books, such as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and If You Give a Moose a Muffin, rely on circular plot structure to tell their stories.
Because of their circular plot structure, Numeroff's books are natural resources for classroom activities on cause and effect and making predictions. Using one of Numeroff's books as a model, students can use the circle plot structure as a culminating project for nearly any unit of study. For instance, consider such project titles as the following:
- If You Tax Our Tea, for a unit on colonial America
- If You Recycle an Aluminum Can, for a unit on the process of recycling
- If You Visit a Rainforest, for a unit on the plants and animals in a rainforest
Find a biography and full bibliography on this site.
This PBS website uses documentary film, photography, artwork, and music to honor and explore Native American storytelling, including the importance of circles and cycles in Native American stories.
This page offers links for teachers to resources related to Laura Numeroff and her books. Included are links to biographical information about Numeroff, as well as lesson plans and activities for several of her books.
Considered Scotland's national bard, Robert Burns was born to poor tenant farmers in 1759. The author of "Auld Lang Syne," Burns became famous after he published his first volume of poetry, written in the Ayrshire dialect of Lowland Scots. When he died at age 37, 10,000 people turned out for the funeral of their beloved "Rabbie" Burns. Every year on this day, many Scots celebrate his honor with a ritual dinner of haggis and scotch whisky.
In addition to being a poet, Robert Burns collected traditional Scottish ballads. To celebrate his birthday, introduce students to the ballad form. Share elements of the ballad with students. Ballads are a part of oral tradition. They celebrate a desirable attribute, tell a story, or herald a significant event, and they often contain a refrain. The metrical and rhyming structure of ballads can take many forms. Here is one type of ballad stanza, which follows a strict formula:
The second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyme.
Line one has 8 beats
Line two has 6 beats
Line three has 8 beats
Read some examples of traditional Scottish ballads to familiarize yourself with their basic characteristics.
Next, have students brainstorm two lists: one should include qualities they admire in people they know, and the other should contain significant events that have happened recently. Have students choose one item from either list as a subject for a ballad. A good way to start is for students to try writing the refrain first and then try writing a stanza, adhering to the formula above. You may want to have students read-or perform-their ballads aloud.
Getting ready for your own Burns Night celebration? This BBC website includes biographical background material, poetry text, and audio (useful to demonstrate accurate pronunciation of Scots). Even more importantly, the site includes step-by-step details on hosting a traditional Robert Burns supper, including links to recipes for haggis, the traditional Scottish dish made from sheep stomachs, lamb livers, and oatmeal.
This website offers information about the National Trust for Scotland site established at Burns' Scottish birthplace.
This Poets.org webpage offers a biography of Burns and links to a selection of his poetry.
Barbara Park was the author of over two dozen Junie B. Jones books, as well as several stories for older readers including My Mother Got Married and Other Disasters, Skinnybones, and Mick Harte Was Here. Park's books have earned a number of awards, including many children's choice and parents' choice award lists. Titles in the Junie B. Jones series continue to appear on bestseller lists.
Have your students write their own "Junie B." stories after brainstorming issues they've experienced during the school year.
- First have the group make a list of the Junie B. adventures in the books they've read (e.g., cheating, school play, losing a tooth).
- Then ask students to brainstorm a second list of ideas that would make interesting stories.
- Students can work alone or in pairs to write their stories, using one of the ideas from the class list. Have students use the interactive story map to plan their writing.
- After all stories have been completed, have each student or pair share their story with the class.
Have students turn their stories into books, with illustrations, and then work with your school or community librarian to create a library display of all the new stories.
A website for kids, including a bibliography of Junie B. books, interactive and printable activities, as well as information about Park's books for older children.
This Random House resource provides summaries and teacher's guides for all of the Junie B. Jones books. Links are provided to other book series resources as well.
This resource contains a brief biography of Park as well as some notes and a list of some of her Junie B. Jones books.
This site provides links to resources about Barbara Park, including an interview in which she describes her experiences in writing the books.
Election Day is held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The first uniform Election Day was observed on November 4, 1845.
Have your students get involved with Election Day by creating posters to advertise Election Day and encourage registered voters to exercise their right to vote. Have small groups of students brainstorm lists of reasons why people should vote. Then, have them work in their groups to create posters using poster paper and paint or felt-tipped markers. Alternatively, they can use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to create flyers. Students can also write persuasive essays that underscore the importance of getting out to vote or create a public service announcement or other multimedia persuasive piece. The ReadWriteThink lessons MyTube: Changing the World with Video Public Service Announcements and Students as Creators: Exploring Multimedia can be adapted for use with this activity.
This website, from the National Museum of American History, looks at the history of voting methods in the United States. The resource explores how ballots and voting systems have evolved over the years as a response to political, social, and technological change, transforming the ways in which Americans vote.
This resource, from PBS, introduces elementary-aged children to the importance of voting in a fun, interactive way.
This website, from the Library of Congress, focuses on some of the memorable elections since the first uniform Election Day on November 4, 1845.
This site includes a timeline of media coverage of important presidential races and presidencies.
Tim O'Brien, author of the memoir If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Send Me Home and short story collections and novels such as Going After Cacciato (for which he won the National Book Award) and The Things They Carried, is known as America's preeminent writer of the Vietnam War era. A veteran of the conflict, O'Brien writes about the experience of the Vietnam War and Vietnam Era with both specific realism and artful imagination. After his tour of duty in Vietnam, he enrolled at Harvard for graduate work but left to pursue an internship at The Washington Post.
Students who read Tim O’Brien’s stories, particularly The Things They Carried, are intrigued by his flexible literary concept of “truth.” He suggests that the truth of fiction, as revealed by a story, can be more true than what actually happened. After reading O’Brien’s story “A True War Story” from The Things They Carried, have students choose a powerful event from their own lives. Using the Timeline Tool, have them map out the events from real life. Then, with the emotional impact of the full story in mind, encourage them to create a fictional version that remains true to the facts of real life but moves toward O’Brien’s notion of the “story truth.”
This site offers a collection of research links about Tim O’Brien for students and a list of his works and related resources.
In this 2010 interview, Tim O’Brien discusses a number of topics related to his work and their relevance today.
Here you’ll find an audio archive and transcript of O’Brien’s talk on the challenges of writing.
A library card is a passport. It permits its owner to travel to other places and times through the pages of a book. Membership in the community of the public library places thousands of resources at students' fingertips. Celebrate National Library Card Month with a trip to the library to explore all the many resources available!
Invite a librarian from your school or a nearby public library to visit your classroom to bring applications and talk to the students about the advantages of having a library card. In completing the applications, students will learn not only how to fill out forms but also how to go through the process of directions.
Once the applications are completed and students have their library cards, it's time to explore the library itself. Schedule a library tour to acquaint students with the general features and resources available; then, invite your students to reflect on what they've found and how they might use the resources in the future. Return to these notes later in the year, expanding on ongoing experiences in the library.
Explore the public library that is home to lion cubs Lionel and Leona and their parents, Cleo and Theo, at this PBS Kids companion site.
This website, from the Library of Congress, offers a wealth of information about life, history, government, and culture in the United States. The online resources are searchable, or visitors can use the site map and index tools to locate information.
From the National Archives, this site links to ten Presidential libraries and two Presidential materials projects. The site includes Presidents George H. W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.
This site promotes quality reading through book reviews, related games, author biographies and interviews, and more. Students can also learn how to set up a successful book club and find discussion guides for select books.
The American Library Association site for Library Card Sign-up Month has free promotional tools, including links to download slideshows, posters, bookmarks, and more.