As a parent, I’m already dreading the summer reading slide. My second grader has just started to enjoy reading without much prompting, and I want to make sure that continues as the school days drop off and the long summer days begin.
Scholastic thinks it has a good antidote to that slide: As kids hit certain milestones with their reading this summer, they get to “unlock” a new short story written just for the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge by authors such as R.L. Stine, Michael Northrup, Jude Watson, Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pierce and many more.
The authors shared advice with Scholastic about how they get kids excited about reading. Trust me when I say I’m paying attention now:
R.L. Stine: By letting them read what they choose to read. My son read only Garfield comics his whole childhood. My wife and I wished he would read a bigger variety of books. But he read only Garfield. Then he went to college and was an English major! He loved to read.
Wendy Wan-Long Shang: As a school library volunteer, I love seeing students share their favorite titles with one another. Why not encourage students to share their favorite books in the form of a flow chart? Students can start with a popular title, and then use decision points – such as type of protagonist, author, setting or genre – to expand into other books.
Blue Baillett: First as a classroom teacher and now as an author, I love recommending books that make kids want to bring the story alive within their own world and in their own way. I find that mysteries are extra powerful, perhaps because reading a mystery is partnering with the writer – joining in a hunt or a search or a puzzle. For instance, I once read Treasure Island to one of my classes and everyone made detailed neighborhood maps, argued about what valuables might be hidden where, whether stolen goods could ever be kept once found and so on. I love fiction that makes the real world sparkle and deepen once the book is closed, and gets everyone thinking about what’s right, what’s wrong, and all the questions that lie in between. Curiosity opens so many doors and turns so many pages!
Roland Smith: When I write a book I am trying to create a reader. It takes only one book to create a reader, but it has to be the right book, the perfect pairing. For me this book was The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden. I told my third grade teacher that I wasn’t interested in books about bugs. I was wrong. She was right. If she hadn’t taken the time to get to know me, to guess at what I might like, I may not have become a reader, or a writer.
Lauren Tarshis: As editor of Storyworks, we always provide detailed lesson plans for every piece of content that we include in the magazine. So as I was writing this story, I was naturally thinking, “How could I teach with this?”
A few ideas:
What genre of story is this (fantasy) and what evidence can you find that this is in the fantasy genre (e.g. magic, spells)?
Are there any fantasy books in your classroom library that might be paired with this?
What is the mood of this story (e.g. dark and suspenseful)? How does the author create this mood? Look for particular words (e.g. terror, dark, evil) that contribute to that feeling.
I chose to write a fantasy story using the first line provided for the Summer Reading Challenge. What other kinds of stories could be written using that same first line?
Jude Watson: Often I’ll invite kids to be story detectives. All books start with a problem. Kid readers often don’t articulate what that is but they know it intuitively. I’ll name the problem and see if the kids can identify the book—Harry Potter, the Lightning Thief, Hatchet, LOOT – hands start waving! Then we talk about the problem underneath the problem—the one you have to figure out like a detective. Hint: it always involves an emotion. For example, March’s problem is that he has to steal seven magic moonstones. The problem underneath that problem is that he needs a new family. Then we brainstorm different problems—a surface problem (the crazier the better) and an underneath problem. We mash them together, and if it’s a workshop, everyone writes a scene. Depending on age, it can be a paragraph or a page. By the end of the exercise, the students will have had an insight into what makes a story work: action and emotion.
Varian Johnson: I often use other kids to generate excitement about reading. When I’m speaking at a school event, I ask the kids what they’re currently reading. While some kids are shy, others immediately raise their hands and happily share. Usually they’re speaking about a book that I’ve read as well, and if so we both go on and on about what we liked about the book, which it turns excites the other kids. At the end of the presentation, I’ll often have one or two of the more quiet kids come up to me to say, “I didn’t want to ask earlier…but what was the name of that book you were talking about?”
Tui T. Sutherland: One of the things I love about Wings of Fire readers is how imaginative and enthusiastic they are. So my first suggestion is to have kids invent their own dragon character: choose a tribe, imagine a name, give them a power or interesting family connections. I’d also encourage them to create original art related to the stories—I’ve seen incredible dragon drawings and fantastic fan-fiction, too! Some kids have rewritten lyrics of songs to be about the characters, while others have created amazing YouTube videos. My hope is that this fantasy world of dragons can be a fun place for readers to let their own imaginations fly…and with luck, that will make them more excited about reading overall!
Patrik Henry Bass: I recall my own childhood. I equated reading to eating vegetables, which I knew were good for me but because adults said so I resisted. That all changed when I discovered books beyond those my teachers suggested. I always try to keep a pulse on what kids are reading. When they understand that I value what they’re reading at the moment, it builds an unspoken trust. I ask their recommendations and they in turn respond to my choices for them.
Gordon Korman: One great trick for getting kids excited about reading is a Literary Quotes contest. Students choose their favorite quotes from books and hang posters “advertising” them. Inevitably, kids are drawn to some of the quotes. What did the author mean by that? Why would the character say such a thing? Pretty soon, there’s a run on the books the most popular quotes come from, and genuine competition to come up with the next “hot” one. It usually ends with a school-wide vote to choose a winner and runners up.
And for a little taste of what kids will see this summer, here’s a sneak peek at one of the original stories:
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