The Summer Reading Challenge

As important as it is to keep students reading over the summer months, it can also be a challenge. At Shawnigan, Librarian Mrs. Rayna Hyde-Lay curates the Summer Book SLAM, a program that gets education staff involved in encouraging students to read some of their favourite books during their time away from the School. This post also appeared on the blog of the Association of Independent School Librarians.
For many of our libraries, Summer Reading plans are well underway with selections of books already planned. Often working with colleagues in other departments, we select compelling reads: age appropriate and collated to limit summer learning loss. In summer 2020, our school was suddenly thrown into a longer summer break and with this a reading opportunity. Screen use was maxed out, and students were looking for ways to engage with the printed word. We seized on this and started a book club which gamifies reading for the courageous and reluctant reader.
Summer Book SLAM is our catch phrase for Summer Reading. Our goal is simple: engage readers, at many different levels, in personal reading. How do we do this? We play a game.
First, we collect Book Champions. A call goes out in early May to education staff at the school to be a Book Champion. Their role is to lead a team of readers in a book the champion is passionate about. I seek to engage teachers from every department, and they are always excited about reading with a group of students and sharing a book which is meaningful to them.  Most years we have had more champions than space!
Second, select books. Often champions come with a book in mind – full disclosure here, I typically say yes to the book because the goal is to have the champions and students engaged in what they are reading. If needed I do have a list of book suggestions for champions to consider, but usually these superheroes of reading amaze me with their variety and forethought.  
Third, and this is the tough phase, we promo promo promo the Summer Book SLAM. In the past I have had success using social media, inserting the conversation into our English classes and personal chats with staff and students over the final few months of school (we finish at the end of June).
Of course, we always host an end-of-summer cupcake party with prizes and door prizes in September, and this is also a big selling feature. During the summer we offer three static challenges for readers to participate in. Some past examples have been a photo challenge with your book, favourite quotes, and telling a friend why they should read this book. They also have one active challenge designed by their Book Champion – this will often be a short writing piece, questions, or other ways to engage with the text.  Based on participation, prizes are awarded!
I love to hear what other people are doing for summer book clubs so feel free to share your thoughts and ideas! 
Rayna Hyde-Lay is Shawnigan’s librarian and loves all things libraryland! She still believes in 398.2 and enjoys working with students as research support, great read locator, advisor, and teacher. Most recently she has expanded her skills and is working with Shawnigan’s Grade 8 program as the School embarks on this brave new phase.
We acknowledge with respect the Coast Salish Peoples on whose traditional lands and waterways we live, learn and play. We are grateful for the opportunity to share in this beautiful region, and we aspire to healthy and respectful relationships with those who have lived on and cared for these lands for millennia.