The Writing Classroom – Summer Reading Story Quilts

It may still be 15C out in the middle of August here in Vancouver (we’ve had what amounts to five days of truly hot weather this season), but the kids are out of school, the pool is open, and we are in full summer mode for a few more weeks.

That also means that my creative writing classes were PACKED (and I mean packed) with young authors who knew they need to keep reading and writing during the long break but also didn’t really want comma worksheets and book summaries.

My secret plan to keep them going was to bribe them with pizza. They received long reading lists and daily writing tasks at the beginning of the term. The pizza at the end of the Summer Reading Challenge Rainbow proved the key to getting them to read more than 100 novels this summer.

The way we kept track of it all was a bit sentimental, a bit creative, and a bit old-school community building.

We made a Summer Reading Story Quilt.

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Over the course of eight weeks, the kids got to make a quilt square every time the read a new book. Around the edges, they had to come up with symbols that stood for the theme, the characters, or a literary device used in the novel. Then, in the middle, they drew their favourite scene and captioned it.

Admittedly, there was a wide range of engagement, but they had fun using their brains in a different way, setting reading goals, and achieving them.

For me, this was also a demonstration of how much can be accomplished by taking learning one step at a time. When we started, the wall looked pretty sorry and everyone wondered if we could ever fill it.

Within a couple of weeks, the quilt started to take shape.

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Kids would pile in to see what others had read. They named their teams in order to identify which squares belonged to them and counted to make sure they were in the race for the pizza at the end.

Yesterday, the final square made it up onto the wall.

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The kids couldn’t believe how much they accomplished and we all marveled at the 100+ books read over the course of the Summer.

Now, time for the celebration!

Why Summer Reading Makes You Smarter (Reading Lists for Every Age Included)

In the beginning, there was the word.

The word came in the form of Richard Scary’s What Do People Do All Day? 

It evolved into The Aristocats (I also owned the LP record for my wee orange record player).  I must have read that book and listened to those songs a hundred times tucked away in the quiet of my bedroom closet which I transformed into my very personal 7-year-old reading nook.

Then, I found The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and I knew—reading was my thing.

No one really had to guess what I was going to be when I grew up, words stuck to me and with me.

I became the girl that reads everything.

Now, about two weeks before the end of school each year, my notorious book nerd status earns me about a billion conversations with other moms about how to keep the reading love (or at least requirement) going over the 10-week break about to descend upon us.

They know the Summer brain drain is real (seriously, kids lose so much when skills are not applied, like getting all flabby after not exercising for 2.5 months). However, getting most kids to read is exasperating at the best of times. When the sun is out, the pool is calling, vacation keeps them from any sort of normal routine, and parents are checking off the days until they can return their children to the care of saintly teachers, getting kids to read is, well, ya know . . .

Reading is pretty much the number one Summer brain activity.

It’s a great way to chill out, ground after a long flight, stay busy on a car trip, cool off in the tent with while camping. It’s a fantastic way to explore the world right around you (by parents grabbing some content-specific books before heading out on a trip or a day activity).

I supplement my kids’ learning all the time without them even knowing it by passing along guide books or identification books. They get storybooks on owls and fairies. I slip a fiction novel into their backpack, knowing they will love it once they’ve gotten over that their phone doesn’t work in the wilderness.

There are lots of ways to slip the reading in this Summer.

In terms of dedicated “reading” time, I’d tell you to go all free range and let them read what they want, join the library Summer reading club, or stuff like that. Let’s get real, though. Free range means they read Archie comics all Summer—fun, but not brain food. Summer reading club at the library is, well, usually not effective because we, the parents, are lousy at getting our kids to the ACTUAL library.

However, reading groups that give a few dedicated hours a week to discussing literature are a great way to make sure your kids are getting their brain food. In my writing groups, we are jumping into Summer reading love too.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

This year, all of my writing groups are going to get down to business with some serious reading through Summer reading challenges. I had them pick the genres and “approve” the books we’d read in each group over the next 10 weeks.

Then, they get started and read until their faces fall off. 🙂

I’m not monitoring their reading in the sense that we are not doing weekly quizzes. However, they will have to know the books to make the art, write the stories, create poetry, go on scavenger hunts, and write vocabulary songs. They earn points all Summer, not just for reading, but for all of the other goodness too.

And, they are competing against the other classes for a pizza party at the end of the Summer.

Yep. It’s a little extra work on my part. However, I can report that even my most reluctant readers are totally into this Summer challenge.

If you are in Vancouver and want to get in on one of the reading challenges, CONTACT ME and I will hook you up.

Otherwise, I wanted to spread the Summer Reading Challenge love and share the reading lists I’ve developed. You can download them by clicking on the links.

HAPPY SUMMER READING!

Primary Grade Reading List

Middle-Grade Reading List

Young Adult Reading List

Argumentative

My 13-year-old is, well, kinda vocal about her position in the world. I’m one of those moms who isn’t going to let general opinionated ways go unchecked. So, when she ventures into argumentative territory, the English teacher in me unleashes to test her skills with a little essay writing 🙂  .

I love it when she reminds me that she is my daughter. Words are powerful:

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Day 25 – The Teacher

As a writer, I have found nothing more aggressively instructive in the best of ways than teaching creative writing to others.

Unless you’re wealthy by other means, a writer’s life requires a day job or a side hustle to make the pieces fit together. Not to get all cheesy, but teaching writing is really the best case scenario for a professional writer in terms of that ebb and flow. For the last several years, I’ve taught people of all ages how to find their own voices, write stronger stories, and edit their own work.

It keeps me sharp, well-read in all genres, creative, and always thinking about stories, more stories, then at least another one.

Part of staying laser-focused on my writing career is to not get distracted. Teaching keeps me in the zone. Plus, I literally could spend all day every day talking about writing. So . . .