A wonderful and interesting article about an innovative approach to summer reading came through my weekly NCTE Inbox e-newsletter tonight. The Butler Public School District in New Jersey has implemented a new summer reading program for 2008 that shies away from traditional classics and tests and instead embraces contemporary novels and an emphasis on reading for pleasure (how refreshing!!!). No threats, no incentives, no extrinsic motivation—just a schoolwide focus and expectation on reading a text that is interesting, enjoyable, and accessible during the summer months!
According to the Star-Ledger, “District officials said their goal is to get students reading — and excited about reading — during the summer months. They also developed a district-wide summer reading theme — celebrating differences — that Butler schools plan to weave through their curriculums during next school year. ”
The superintendent, Rene Rovtar, also goes on to say, “Summer reading … is sometimes viewed as very ineffective. Families go on vacations at the end of August and suddenly there are multiple books that have not been touched,” “The purpose is to build an enjoyment of reading that they will hopefully take with them long after they leave.”
What is especially innovative about this program is that it encompasses all grades, not just the high school students. Take time to read the article , and I think you too will be impressed at the planning and forethought the district has placed in this program. I am also impressed at the philosophy that underpins this approach; additionally, the actions at the district and school level (outlined in the article) speak volumes to the students about the authenticity and value of this summer reading project.
I would like to see more districts in our area follow the lead of the Butler Public School District!