Because in my memory of childhood there is always the smell of bubbling tar, of Pinke Zinke, the briny smell of the sea. It is always summer and I am on Scarborough Beach, blinded by light, with my shirt off and my back a map of dried salt and peeling sunburn. There are waves cracking on the sandbar and the rip flags are up. My mum, brown as a planed piece of jarrah, is reading a novel by John O’Hara…

Tim Winton


I believe that if you spend time exploring, swimming, playing sport and enjoying summer, the delights of an outdoor, active, hot Australian holiday can be accentuated by the experience of books and stories.

An imaginary life, vicariously led, is an inner joy for those of us who know this pleasure.

Many of you would have read Tim Winton’s accounts of his reading after long days spent on the Western Australian beaches of his ‘sunburnt’, ‘peeling’ youth. What was it that led Tim to read so much? Did his Mum, ‘brown’ as ‘jarrah’, spending her days relaxing with a book naturalise the experience of reading over summer?

Our school library has many new books, a wildly varying selection, prominently on display. Too many will remain on the shelves over the long summer break.

How do we get students, whose parents do not read, to read over their hols?

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Canton Public Library (MI)

I wrote a post about reading, earlier this year, that garnered quite a few thoughtful comments. As the academic year draws to a close we have a week remaining to influence students at our school to spend time reading over their holidays. I am hoping you have advice to share once more.

How do you motivate kids to read in their holidays?

I’d really like to know!


CREDIT slider image: cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Daniel Y. Go:



    • David Chapman

    • 12 years ago

    I try to do a couple simple things. For senior students I recommend (and lend) many of my personal books – trying to cater for their taste and to expand their horizons.

    For junior students I talk about new books, and ask about their local public library experiences (which one do you go to? when was the last time? when are going next? what will you borrow?).

    Of course – my questions about what they will read over summer (I hope) have some credibility as I enquire about their holiday/weekend reading on a consistent basis throughout the year.

    The best part about all of this is, it does not feel like work to do any of the above. It is part of what I love to do.

  1. I read to my class EVERY day. Without fail. I have a policy of only ever reading the first book in a series (with the exception of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe). This means many students are keen to read on and actively seek out the next book – or books – in the series. Leave them wanting more, I say!

  2. My husband and I have come up with a few strategies for encouraging our students to read – any of which could be used to get students reading over the summer holidays:

    1. Using edmodo to create an online environment where students recommend books that they have read to each other. Anthony came up with this idea after observing how rapidly students share You Tube videos and the like – applying the concept to books. This works particularly well as peer recommendations are generally far more powerful than teacher recommendations.

    2. Reading the first chapter during the lesson – kids LOVE being read to! I use this strategy right up to Year 12 to get my students ‘into’ the book – I even read the first few of Walton’s letters in Frankenstein to my Advanced kids!

    3. Audio books – we use these quite a bit to foster student interest in books. I have had a number of seniors who really like the idea of being able to listen to a book on their iPod while exercising or doing chores around the house.

    4. Book trailers – there are a number of fantastic book trailers on You Tube – e.g. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Showing students these allows them to better visualise the premise of the story.

    5. Book exchange – this is a strategy where we do a reading ‘deal’ with a student: the teacher reads a book the student has read and really likes, in exchange for agreeing to read a book the teacher has read and really likes. Anthony and I have both done this one many times and it works particularly well with reluctant readers – e.g. Twilight for The Time Travelers Wife or James Bond for The Outsiders.

    6. Kobo app for iPad – for those students with iPads, the Kobo app is fantastic! I have just started using it myself – it not only keeps track of the percentage of the book you have read, but keeps a log of all sorts of reading statistics and enables highlights and annotations of the book. Also, as you read more you unlock different awards. You are able to share these awards on Facebook and you can even highlight and share passages of the book you like on Facebook as well. I have started using it with a few students and they get so excited about the percentage of the book they have read! I am also able to ask them which awards they have earned “this week” and we compare how many awards we have – boys especially love this kind of competition.

    6. During wide reading, make sure that you are reading too – not doing marking. As a teacher, you need to lead by example when it comes to reading, indicating the importance of the pastime by actively engaging in it yourself. Oftentimes, students will approach you during wide reading and engage you in conversation about what you are reading – which brings me to the final strategy:

    8. Talk about books! Beyond simply asking what students are reading or telling them that they should read this or that book – ask them questions about plot and characters, get them to show you a passage that they really liked and ask them to explain why they liked it. Tell them what you like about it. Conversation, acknowledgement and validation – all students need this!

    • Ilona Welch

    • 12 years ago

    We have just emailed parents a list of our ‘top borrows’ from the library as a suggestion for Christmas presents. It was responded to very positively!

    • Vivian Harris

    • 12 years ago

    Our school (low SES, high Aboriginal) participates in Books in Homes. Three terms of the year students get 3 brand new books a year which they order from a box of 48 books (1/4 are Aboriginal content). The 48 books then go to the library. The last order is in 4th term and the children go home from the school concert carrying their books. We have been doing this for 3 years now and I generally find that when I ask in the New Year what they read over the holidays they will name the books they received the previous term. The remaining term I let each child choose two books from a box of second hand books I have collected over the year.

    • Rebecca

    • 12 years ago

    Vivian. Amazing. I love most of the ideas here but a lot of the tips don’t address the reality that many homes are book-free and kids do pick up their parents’ habits. So I would like to go out on a limb and say that encouraging kids to read is not enough. To break the non-reading cycle, I would say that it would make more sense to get the parents reading! I am not quite sure how, but when presented with a tough question, why not try a radical answer, instead of assuming you are powerless over the external factors (parents). Does it have to be that way?

    Here is a great podcast on parenting:

    It seems to suggest that kids pick up our habits. Any thoughts on getting parents reading without coming off as sounding patronising?

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