Acquiring Books to Give Students for Summer Reading: STOP the Summer Slide!

Books everywhere!  Books spread across tables and in boxes along the floor.  Books that you can choose.  For free.  To keep.  It’s a FREE-CHOICE Book Bonanza!  Happy summer reading!

Here’s the most important way I can end the school year.  I’m a K-6 literacy coach in a Title I school.  A large portion of our students don’t have many books to read in their homes.  For years now, I’ve taken on the challenge of offering free books for summer reading to as many students as I can.  I figure it’s the least I can do considering the research on the summer slide (Allington, R. L., & McGill-Franzen, A. (2013). Summer reading: Closing the rich/poor reading achievement gap. New York: Teachers College Press.)* and the fact we’ve worked so hard all year to build these kids up.  Why let them go out the door and fall back behind?

One of my best ideas for acquiring books for our readers is to do book drives with higher SES schools in our area.  I choose one school each year.  I talk with the principal and compose a letter the school then sends home to their families asking for book donations (used books, in good condition, that their children no longer read, appropriate for grades K-6).  The books are collected in their front office and I pick them up.  As school nears its end, I set up tables in our gym or library to display books--like a book fair.  Our highest needs students are invited in to pick several books first, then we open it up to any student who’d like to come in and indulge!  One year we even had donated book bags for the event.  So many happy readers left absolutely beaming, weighed down by packs full of books and magazines—for themselves, for younger brothers and sisters.  One might think, “Yeah, but do they actually read them?”  Well, chances are they’ll get bored sitting home during the summer.  And, chances are, if there are books lying around, they’ll pick them up.  I like those chances.  According to Allington’s research, if students read just fifteen self-selected books over the summer weeks, they won’t be affected by the summer slide.  Plus, I like to imagine our friends, curled up, reading for fun, not because they’re bored or because they’re worried about losing their skills, but because they really do love to read.  <3

Best to you and your readers!  Happy summer reading to us all!  -Janiel

*One factor Allington found significant was allowing children to PICK the books rather than choosing them for them, trying to match them to their levels, or giving everyone a set that was purchased for that purpose. 

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  1. This is such good advice! We just had a school wide used book sale, and students were so excited to choose their own material and take it home for the summer. It makes such a difference!

    1. Thanks, Susanna! It really does make a difference and it doesn't take a ton of effort! Thanks for your additional idea :)
      Have a great weekend! -Janiel

  2. Wonderful idea! The magic truly happens when kids can choose their own books! Thanks for sharing with us the way you accomplish this!

  3. Such a great idea to let kids have their own books! Thanks for sharing!

    Sally from Elementary Matters

  4. I love this idea!!! I started reading this book and live it so far! I will think about how to incorporate this idea for next year. Currently I give away 15 books a week but not every kid gets a book. I like the idea that they all leave with a book. Thanks!!

    1. You're welcome! Great to get kids reading through the summer!


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