A Summer Reading Alternative that WORKS for Upper Elementary and Middle Grades

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Required summer reading. Do you remember the last minute rush to finish, effectively ruining the end of your vacation? 

Or perhaps worse, have you been a teacher trying to 'enforce' summer reading? Should students who don't participate start the year with a failing grade? There's not much more demoralizing for a reluctant reader. And how about students who are new to the school? There's no fair way to get around that. 

This is why a few years ago I said GOODBYE to required reading and HELLO to a new system. Read on for what I do now!

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Summer Reading Bookmark Challenge

First, I love using bookmarks in the classroom. If you haven't seen my bookmark read aloud companions you can view those here! They are versatile and easy to keep up with (as long as you can convince students to leave them in their books!). For this reason I chose to use a bookmark format for my summer reading challenge.

Each bookmark is labelled with 10 challenges. (For example: read a book set in the winter.) Students are challenged to read a book that fits into each category and record it on their bookmark. They have full choice over the book, reading level, when/where to read, etc. All they must do is read something for each category and return the bookmark to me. 

Why does this work? 

1. Reluctant readers are given CHOICE. Reading will automatically be of interest to the student because they get to choose it. 

2. No need to worry about differentiation. Since students are asked to choose their own books, you don't need to differentiate the book list for them. They can read whatever they are able. 

3. There's no pressure on you, the teacher. You don't have to enforce, grade, or worry about this at all. If students choose to participate, they will!

4. You can use this same list year after year--students can simply choose new book! You'll never need to coordinate with prior grades to choose new texts. 

5. Parents love it! I've gotten amazing feedback on this system from parents. They love the challenge and the flexibility. The mission is to INSPIRE NOT REQUIRE reading and this challenge does just that!

**Do I have 100% participation? No! But that's not the point. Even with required reading you won't have 100% participation. I've found these to be an amazing alternative required reading that are well received.**

Where can I find this challenge?

I've loved this reading format so much that I now offer 4 different challenges! One for fall, winter, spring, and summer breaks. I give them out at each break and have a great response each time! You can them out in detail here:

Fall Break Reading Challenge 

Winter Break Reading Challenge

Spring Break Reading Challenge

Summer Break Reading Challenge

Reading Challenge BUNDLE ($$ saving option)


Inspiring student reading is so so important and it’s FUN! I hope you can use some of these suggestions soon. If you need suggestions for WHAT to read, check out my lists for thirdfourth, and fifth grade here!

I would also love to hear your tips for read aloud time! Please connect with me here in the comments or on instagram at @fifthintheforest

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