Ease Transition With A Summer Reading Project

Reading time: 3

Helen Sharpe

Helen works at The Radclyffe School in Oldham as English AST and Lead Teacher for Literacy. She has worked tirelessly to build a culture of reading through regular assemblies and whole-school initiatives while trialling and sharing best practice in pedagogy. Helen is passionate about curriculum...
Read more about Helen Sharpe

How can we help the transition from primary to secondary?

It is well-known that students often experience an academic ‘dip’ as a result of transition from primary to secondary. When thinking about how to avoid the notorious Year 7 decline, its interesting to consider the study conducted by Oxford University which found that ‘Reading for pleasure is the only out-of-school activity linked to higher chances of getting to university and finding a professional career.’ (2011)

In my school, we recognised the opportunity to sustain positive reading habits developed in primary schools and launched a Year 6 Summer Reading Project with the following aims:

  1. Avoid the losses in reading levels students often undergo during the summer holidays (Anderson et al., 1988; Alexander et al., 2001; Borman et al., 2009)
  2. Gain contextual knowledge about ancient Greece
  3. Encourage reading for pleasure.

Want to launch a similar project? This is how it works.

How to run a summer reading project

  • Select a fiction text for Year 6 students to read over the summer linked to your first Year 7 scheme (we chose ‘Who Let the Gods Out?’ by Maz Evans in consultation with primary colleagues and because our Year 7s study Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey in the first term).
  • Make a booklet of activities to support their reading. In our booklet we have an introductory page explaining how the booklet works and then a range of activities (everything from creating their own God to exploring the etymology behind Greek words in the English language – but all related to or inspired by the fiction text). 
  • The summer project is designed to be enjoyable and not onerous. This is why our guidance states students should complete a minimum of 6 out of the 12 activities.
  • There are extension tasks such as creating a ‘Surprise Me’ homework on their reading: surprising their teacher with a homework of their choice (we have had everything from stories to sculptures of The Trojan Horse!), taking part in The Reading Agency’s Summer Challenge and Finish the Story Competitions.

Here’s last year’s Summer Reading Challenge:

2018 sees the reading challenge of to Beanotown for a summer of mischief making.

How do you engage parents?

If you have Year 6 parents’ evenings or open days, use these to explain and promote your Summer Project. Make reference to the research around reading for pleasure and the summer ‘dip’.

Provide parents with an information book about how they can support their child with reading.

In this same presentation, we talk parents through all our reading initiatives. These include regular reading assemblies, sponsored reads and our school reading website where students can read book reviews, enter competitions and get tips on how to read successfully.

How do you engage students?

On Year 6 induction day, introduce those students who have an English lesson to the book. We don’t have form time but if you do, this is another opportunity to do this!

In the lesson, include an ice-breaker activity where students share their favourite books with others in the class. Then read the first chapter and (time permitting!) complete an activity from the accompanying booklet.

Incentivise the project through certificates and prizes in the first Year 7 assembly (we have special reading assemblies every half-term).

Give every student who has taken part a special certificate and present prizes for outstanding submissions. In the first English lesson, set up a showcase of their projects like a gallery to celebrate their work. Allow positive peer comments and to further encourage positive attitudes to reading.

What success has the project had?

We have been running this project in its current form for the last 5 years and data around library loans, reading ages and attitudes to reading continues to improve.

Almost every student in Year 7 and Year 8 consistently has a book in their bag and can tell you about what they are currently reading.

I think the most important factor is the positive approach to the transition project rooted in enjoyment, creativity and rewards in order to create a buzz around reading and to sustain the association with school and reading for pleasure through transition and beyond.

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