Every spring, I go into the classroom next door and greet the ninth graders with that most dreaded news: they must complete summer reading. Our school implemented a summer reading program a few years ago as a way to engage students in doing something academic over the summer, and to make our English program a little stronger. The jury is still out on whether this achieves the first objective, and I’m slightly biased towards the second one. However, it did usher in one of my favorite projects, which I call Just Caught You Reading.
Before school lets out, I challenge students to send me a picture of them reading a book, any book, anywhere. I give out “bonus brownie points,” aka, nothing but pride, to take it in a creative location or in a unique place.
I now have 5 years of Just Caught You Reading pictures in my classroom. For current students at my school, I post their pictures on my bulletin board in the back of my classroom. After students graduate, they move to the top of my walls, and they’re getting extensive enough that they currently wrap halfway around the room, creating a unique and delightful border.
I’ve had some wonderful photos submitted. This year I had a student read Gatsby at Loch Ness:
Another perched on the back of her horse for a sojourn into Susannah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire:
Some are scenic:
Some are active:
This project has been a delightful opportunity to show other students in my class that it can be fun to read. Yes, obviously we probably can’t read upside down or while we play tennis, but these students really did take a book with them to Loch Ness and the Canadian Rockies, and I’d like to think that maybe they relaxed with a book for even a few minutes.
I encourage other ELA educators to implement this project over the summer, or as a back to school assignment. If nothing else, you’ll wind up with a great collection of photos to display.
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