Keep Learning Going Throughout the Summer Blog Series · reading-writing connections · summer vacation · writing workshop

Summer Reading & Writing Connections: Keep Learning Going Throughout the Summer

mountain bike
Turns out, riding a bike is not always like riding a bicycle. Neither is reading and writing.

As a teenager I loved to ride my mountain bike. I usually rode the “cow paths” out in the farmland and forests in back of my parents’ house. These were literally paths made by cows, where the dirt had been packed down by years of cows stomping along on the same trails over and over. I could ride on cow paths for miles through fields and trees, breathing the fresh air, watching the sun set from the apple orchard.

That was all a long, long, time ago. For the past two decades I’ve been too busy to do very much mountain bike riding: School, work, living in cities, writing books, kids. Adulthood seemed to leave no time for riding on trails.

But a few weeks ago, I got a shiny new mountain bike and I’ve been riding it almost every day since.

You know that expression people use: “It’s like riding a bicycle?”

It’s supposed to mean that once you learn a skill set you’ll never forget it.

Well, turns out that riding a mountain bike is not like riding a bicycle. My legs are covered in bruises and cuts from the spikes on my pedals and the falls that I’ve taken. My muscles are sore. My wrists are in pain. I have a lot of work to do if I’m ever going to be able to do what I used to do.

The thing is, like mountain biking, reading and writing are also not “like riding a bicycle.” Kids actually can forget what they’ve learned if they don’t keep practicing. In fact, they probably will. This phenomenon, known as the “summer slide” is something that educators, librarians, and families have been concerned with for years. Summer reading programs, book give-aways, reading lists, and various challenges all exist to encourage and even require students to keep reading over the summer.

Current research and practice shows that writing and reading are reciprocal – meaning growth in one often corresponds to growth in the other. Over the summer, kids who write as well as read are not only maintaining their writing skills, but they are also helping to maintain their reading skills while doing it.

Fostering a Sense of Story in Both Reading and Writing

Inviting your students to draw and write stories over the summer helps them retain some of what they’ve learned about characters, setting, problem, and resolution. Whether you send home a journal, or a writing folder, or a full-blown writing kit, having the materials to write with and a few strategies for getting ideas can go a long way toward fostering a writing life over the summer that will also support students’ work as readers.

Some schools plan a mid-summer day (or two) where kids can come into school, swap their summer book baggies, and share the stories they’ve written so far to have a mid-summer celebration and check-in. One school I know is planning to have a few teachers available to do informal assessments to share with families and help kids set new reading and writing goals mid-summer.

Pursuing a Passion Supports Both Reading and Writing

Nobody knows how to obsessively pursue an interest like kids do. Over the summer is the perfect chance for kids to write about anything they are currently passionate about. Whether it’s Pokemon, or dragons, Taylor Swift, baseball, swimming, or Legos, kids tend to go through phases of being obsessed about one topic or another. Before the school year is out, show them how they can turn those obsessions into mini-writing projects. Leave them inspired to create info-books and posters, how-to guides, top ten lists, and other bits of writing about their passions. It helps to make these options as engaging, and maker-oriented as possible. Cheat-guides and tip sheets for video games, comic books or graphic novels, treasure maps, joke books, or all of the above are engaging formats that kids will want to play around with if given the materials and a little inspiration.

Working on these passion projects is highly supportive of learning how to structure and organize information, and use content-specific vocabulary. If they practice doing this in their own writing, this supports their work as readers of nonfiction texts. Particularly as informational texts get more challenging, the more kids experience creating complex, hybrid information texts from the inside out, they can apply that familiarity to the texts they read, thinking “Hey, this is like that book/list/thing I made!”

Word Solving in Writing and Word Solving in Reading

Spelling and grammar are the most obvious reading/writing connection for many people. It makes sense that the more students practice hearing and recording the sounds they hear in words, the more easily they’ll then recognize those patterns as readers.

In fact, there’s been a recent burst of articles and research on the topic of reciprocity of reading and writing, with spelling and decoding in mind. Recently headlines were made when a landmark study (once again) demonstrated the importance of invented spelling (a.k.a. developmental spelling). Encouraging kids to write a lot, and to write as best they can is incredibly supportive to their growth as readers. Many teachers send home a few key resources for spelling (an alphabet chart or blends chart for younger writers, a simple editing checklist perhaps for older), but emphasize that over the summer, the most important thing is to just keep writing.

Professional Books and Resources

The connection between writing and reading has been studied for decades. Here are just a few professional books and resources — to keep your reading/writing life alive over the summer.

Change Over Time in  Children’s Literacy Development by Marie Clay

Writers ARE Readers: Flipping Reading Instruction into Writing Opportunities by Lester Laminack and Reba Wadsworth

Reading/Writing Connections in the K-2 Classroom: Find the Clarity and Then Blur the Lines by Leah Mermelstein



  • This giveaway is for a copy of Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing. Many thanks to Heinemann for donating a copy for one reader. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to win a copy of this book.)

  • For a chance to win this copy of Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing, please leave a comment about this or any blog post in this blog series by Sunday, May 7th at 12:00 p.m. EDT. Betsy Hubbard will use a random number generator to pick the winners whose name will be announced in the ICYMI blog post for this series on Monday, May 8th.

  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so Betsy can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, our contact at Heinemann will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)

  • If you are the winner of the book, Betsy will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – JOY WRITE BOOK. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Please join us for a Twitter Chat on Monday, May 8th at 8:30 p.m. EDT/5:30 p.m. PDT.

39 thoughts on “Summer Reading & Writing Connections: Keep Learning Going Throughout the Summer

  1. Beth,
    We were just telling bike riding storie last weekend. We rode on Sundays a lot . . . On paved roads. I never had a bike of my own and often rode a boys bike so I don’t even know what a mountain bike is (no gears on ours), but that was a great comparison!!!!! THANKS!


  2. I’ve recently found this blog! I love your ideas about continuing with writing over the summer! And so much more! Thank you!


  3. Perfect timing for this topic about Summer Slide! At one of my schools, the PTA is hosting a panel of teachers to address how to help students maintain their learning over the summer. Needless to say I’m soaking up every drop of the posts this week. 🙂 Have MANY of Fletcher’s book and super interested in Joy Write!


  4. Thank you for the bike analogy. Somw powers that be in my system don’t understand the importance if summer practice. The analogy helps. I can’t wait to share this with them!


  5. I think I’ve historically been most concerned about the summer slide in reading. It’s only more recently that I’ve begun to understand that I need to encourage my students to write as well as to read over the summer. Thanks for the reminder, and for the suggestions.


  6. I love the ideas of having students write about activities they are passionate about. I’m thinking of having my students read a book of their choice, but one in which relates to a summer passion of theirs.
    I hope I win Joy Write!


  7. For many summers, I picked two days that I would camp out at the public library and chat with any student that showed up about book choices or any thing. I read with them, wrote with them, laughed with them. Thanks for encouraging me back to that stance.


  8. Our last unit of study in our district is “Discovering our own Writing Projects” and I think I could easily use this unit as a segue into summer writing projects and have the students make their own writing kit to take home! We could fill the kits with pens, all kinds of different paper, stickers, stamps, mini-books, list books, etc. I would also love to incorporate a Mid-Summer Celebration-picnic style! Thank you for all the ideas and tips!


  9. This is such an important post, Beth. I love the analogy you began with. It certainly resonates!

    I loved your suggestion about pursuing a passion. Isabelle has been very into art for the past year. She goes to two different art classes. Perhaps that’s something I need to capitalize on with both her reading and writing. (My wheels are turning, thanks to you!)


  10. Before I retired I used to send home a summer bag of goodies with each of my students who were ENLs. I knew that most of them didn’t have the support at home to continue reading and writing over the summer, so I’d include books discarded by other teachers, paper to write on/or to make art with, gently used markers, pens, boxes of crayons, copies of fun activities like crossword puzzles, word searches, and paper stapled into small books to write on. This was my way of saying “Have fun reading and writing this summer! Joy Write sounds lovely.


  11. Love the ideas here. I think I found my content inspiration for my next installment of what Dana Murphy calls, “PD for the Potty”! Thanks so much!


  12. I think it is so important for students to identify their own reading and writing goals for the summer. Practice is so important but if a person does not own what they are practice it becomes meaningless or work. I love this idea and want to share it with my teachers and parents.


  13. I really love this idea as a mom of young boys who don’t always like the “summer packet”. I love the idea of having them pick a passion to explore in writing and drawing all summer long. Thanks for the idea!


  14. I would LOVE to win JOY WRITE! Planning for my summer reading now and would love to add this to the list!!


  15. Great idea to offer a couple summer days for book and writing swaps/activities!
    Still have my fingers crossed for Joy Write! It would make a wonderful resource as our school moves into the second year of writing workshop.


  16. Love the summer ideas! Our school always has difficulty getting students to participate in summer programs. We always send resources home for students but the % that actually participate is very low. Our school is 46% FARM. In the past several years we have encouraged students to meet several of us at the public library for their summer programming every 2 weeks during the summer which gives us an opportunity to check in with them, read with them, help them check out books & participate in the program offered that night. We typically only get a handful of students to attend even with many reminders. Always looking for new ideas to encourage reading and writing during the summer! Thanks


  17. I’m excited to check out this book. It’s such a good idea for teachers to help students think about all the different genres they might want to write about and in relation to pursuing their passions. So often kids don’t realize a manual, cheat sheet, or comic (things they read and enjoy reading) are things they can also write! It’s wonderful libraries have so many opportunities for kids to keep reading, but you’re right, summer writing needs encouragement too. They absolutely go hand in hand.


  18. Love the idea of doing summer writing. I coordinate a summer math and reading challenge but I am thinking of now doing writing as well. I also love the idea of planning a mid summer day to share reading and writing!


  19. Engaging Blog! Awareness is key in making those needed connections. We have CampiRock and focus on Reading and Writing and Inquiry. We have Call Me Mister volunteers, and Rec Dept Counselors who assist with the students, as well as Teachers and the students LOVE it! Choice is everything! They read, write and research where their interests are sparked!
    Thank You for continuing to INSPIRE!


  20. Thanks Beth. I have been thinking about our May delayed opening for teachers. I think it would be great to plan some summer support for our readers during that meeting.


  21. I love the idea of a mid-summer celebration. Just keep reading and writing is a good motto to show with students. This is a good reminder to emphasize writing in the summer months, not just the reading.


  22. I am hoping to have an Open House program for parents to remind them of the importance of reading and writing over the summer. These ideas will be very helpful as I talk to parents of future middle school students.


  23. I have had my eye on JOY WRITE for some time now. This is a must have for my collection! Thank you for these summer writing and reading tips!!!


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