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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Summer reading bags: access for all

May 18, 2009

In last week's blog post, I wrote about the research on access to books for kids in poverty. In short: all kids, but especially kids from lower-income households, need access to books over the summer. If there are no books laying around to read, it's unlikely that a child will lay around to read.

At our school, we decided to create Summer Reading Bags for the kids the teachers thought would benefit from a sack of books to read. In collaboration with the literacy specialist, our teachers identified approximately 34-40 kids across grades K-4. Teachers also provided us with each child's approximate reading level, using Rigby, Guided Reading or grade level equivalent.

summer reading bags

The initial list we're working from has 34 kids on it: 8 girls, 26 boys. Ten kids need books at Guided Reading Levels A and B (Kindergarten). Five need books in the Level D-H range (First Grade), 13 are in the J-M range (Second Grade) and six are in the N-T range (Third Grade).

Sitting down with the list of needs and looking at the levels quickly led us to a few conclusions:

1. We need books! A paltry few were left over from our spring used book sale. It is time to beat the bushes for books our school's families have outgrown. After an e-blast to teachers and neighbors, books have started to arrive. As teachers pack up for the summer, we hope to get more donations.

2. We need more than books! With 10 kids at Guided Reading Level A, we need other early literacy items: dry erase boards and markers, magnetic letters, alphabet card games, and more.

3. We need what kids want to read! With so many boys on the list, we know we need to collect the types of books boys like to read. We put special calls out for nonfiction books, graphic novels, and books about things like vehicles, jets and trains.

We also realized we'll need to write some kind of letter to parents to let them know the Summer Reading Bag is coming. We'd like to include a few parent-friendly tip sheets with the letter. I think some of our Ed Extras will work well, particularly because we can provide the Spanish version to families who need that.

We're hoping to have the kids pack their Summer Reading Bag during the last week of May. I'll post about it again when that happens so you can see our progress!


This sounds great! I wish I could figure out a way to get the older kids to buy into a "summer reading bag" as many of them simply don't see the purpose of summer reading. They feel school is done and so are they!

I love the ideas. It got me brainstroming for things, stragies I can implement ar home.

The students were brought in to "shop" for their books and reading manipulatives/games today. Joanne, you would have cried to see how happy they were! It felt like Christmas and I felt like Santa. Thank you for spear-heading this very worthy cause-- Let's do it again next year!

This is a wonderful initiative! Thank you for laying out how it was organized. Good luck!

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"What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person ..." —

Carl Sagan