As a kid lit aficionado and teacher of “4th Grade Unicorns,” Elizabeth is a strong advocate for children’s literacy. Throughout the school year, she’s shared middle-grade book recommendations, curriculum ideas, and words of encouragement with her Instagram community, but how do teachers make sure reading habits stick around after the final bell? For Elizabeth, it’s all about access. She set up her “Great Summer Reading Book Giveaway” to make sure all of her students went home with enough to read all summer.
AMP: It looks like your Great Summer Reading Book Giveaway was a huge hit this year! Tell us a little bit more about why you started this project and how long you’ve been doing it.
Elizabeth: I started the Great Summer Reading Book Giveaway to give all my students access to engaging books over the summer months. I also started this event as a way to celebrate all the reading my students did over the school year. By the end of the year, they’ve become such passionate readers, and I would hate for this enthusiasm to come to a halt over the summer months.
AMP: Your giveaway featured 1,081 books for the kids to choose from. It’s a huge haul that will surely keep your students busy this summer. What advice would you give to teachers who are hoping to start something similar in their own classrooms?
Elizabeth: I would encourage teachers to start gathering books early! I started planning for this event in December. Take advantage of teacher crowdfunding websites like DonorsChoose.org and AdoptAClassroom.org. If you teach at a Title 1 school, check out the website FirstBook.org for extremely affordable, high-interest books. Also check out the Scholastic Book Clubs. I like to create DonorsChoose.org special request projects with these two websites to help donations go further.
Additionally, do not be afraid to reach out for help! Many publishers are willing to help support your classroom projects and bookstores may be as well. Check out your local library book sales and garage sales, too.
AMP: Tell us a little bit about how the giveaway itself went. Were the kids excited? Did they need any help choosing which books to take or were they all pretty self-directing?
Elizabeth: The giveaway was an absolute joy. The students were shocked when they walked in and saw our classroom transformed into a bookstore. They were also confused, as they had no idea what was going on! For the most part, students were able to choose they books they wanted on their own, but some would ask me for a bit of guidance. For example, “Do you have any graphic novels?” or “Do you have any books about video games?”
AMP: When laying out the options, did you sort by reading level? Why or why not?
Elizabeth: I did not sort by reading level. I sorted the books by basic genre—fiction and non-fiction. I believe students are most enthusiastic about reading when they select titles they are really interested in, not ones that fit with a certain level. Titles at a bookstore or library are not sorted into levels either, and I wanted this experience to feel very authentic. However, my students know how to tell if a book is a “just right” book for them. They are able to open the book and sample it to see if it’s a good fit before choosing it.
AMP: Why is it so important for kids to keep reading throughout the summer?
Elizabeth: Lack of access to books at home is a huge inequity that most affects our students who live in poverty. This is one small action I could take to help combat this.
Our thanks again to Elizabeth for sharing her story! Andrews McMeel was proud to join several other publishers in donating books to make this event a reality. You can find Elizabeth on Instagram @4thgradeunicorns, and more summer reading resources right here on AMP Kids.