Even as I write this post there's an amazing conversation taking place on Twitter related to the Level Up Book Club - a summer reading adventure that I am lucky enough to co host with Matthew Winner. As I've written about previously, #levelupbc grew out our desire to further explore the idea of gamification and how it might impact our instruction. We've only been up and running for a couple of weeks now but this already feels like an epic win to me! Not only do we have a first round of about 30 educators from around the world participating, but the conversations sparked from our reading have been mind blowing. What's more, starting the club has given Matthew and I the chance to experiment with some of the elements of gaming we've been reading about in Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken - our first club read. Plus, it's just fun. Seriously, we are having a blast and there's just something about the discussions that are growing out of this reading that makes this feel like important/meaningful work. So often we consider "summer reading" as fluff - the opportunity to break out the latest 50 Shades of Beach Reads and let our mind take a much needed vacation. And while there's nothing wrong with that, I have to admit that I don't think I've ever been so motivated to read during the summer than I am as a result of our gamified book club. You'd think I'd be tired of professional reading come June - but the exact opposite is true. Rather, I'm inspired and motivated.
Which leads me to what I'm doing for my kids this summer in regards to summer reading.
We all know that the vast majority of our kids either won't pick up a book this summer or will, at the very least, do a lot less reading during their break from school than they do during the traditional school year. We also know that more and more research indicates that this break from reading can result in some educational back pedaling - especially for those kids who struggle with reading to begin with. In short, summer reading is important.
That said, this year I am excited because my library is going to be open this summer - at least for one day per week. First off, I'm thrilled that my district sees the library as a key player in reading instruction in my school. Avoiding the "summer slide" is a district priority? Great! They see the library as the antidote? Even better! To me, this is a big win. Secondly, I'm stoked about the opportunity to channel some of the things that I find so motivating about The Level Up Book Club and apply them to my summer reading program for kids. Officially, I'm not expected to do anything other than keep the library open and circulate books, but I see this as a chance to do something a bit bigger and a bit more fun.
So... here it is: my summer reading program. I can't claim it's entirely gamified, but there's definitely a gaming element to what I'm trying to do. Of course, it's still a work in progress and things are bound to change as we go along, but I also feel like it's a fairly decent place to start. Plus, I know I'll have a core group of kids who will visit the library every day that we are open. And I'm really looking forward to seeing how they react to the summer reading program and what feedback they provide. I will definitely make changes based on their responses. For me, this is a chance to not only impact the summer reading habits of kids at my school, but it's also a way for them to help shape my instruction for next year - again, a BIG (dare I say epic?) win!
I don't know about you, but every summer I schlep home a bag full of books to tackle during my "break" along with a heap of other work and a pile of good intentions. And every summer, I haul the same load back to school - most of it untouched. Of course, it's true that we all need a break from work over the summer and I'm certainly not suggesting that we all spend July and August working our fingers to the bone, but I can't help but wonder if the "summer slide" is exclusive to students. If kids lose part of what they've learned the year before by completely unplugging, doesn't it stand to reason that we do too?
So... this year, I'm striving for balance. I'm leaving the piles of work at work and letting intrinsic motivation guide my summer reading and learning. What's more, I hope my summer reading program for kids will tap into that same energy.