Jul 12, 2019

Summer Reading Requirements

Students entering grades 6-8 at Beverly Middle School in September 2019 must:
Once you have satisfied those requirements, we hope and expect you to continue to read other books of your own choosing over the summer. Some additional notes:
  • All students may choose off a list for grades lower than their own; students may choose off lists for higher grades with parental permission.
  • There is no assignment for the graphic novel.
  • Students who receive different instructions directly from a teacher (i.e. summer school, special education, ELL, etc.) should follow that teacher's directions.
  • There is no assignment for students entering grade 5, although they should read over the summer, trying books recommended for grades 5+ and on the BPL summer reading list.
BMS librarian Ms. Woznick is blogging here all summer about summer reading. See the current posts below.

Getting Started with a Summer Reading Book

By Alix Woznick
July 12, 2019

Because the summer break is long (about 11 weeks this year!), it’s easy to put off summer reading requirements -- it seems like there’s always more time. July is the time to get going so your child can finish in plenty of time without a lot of stress. Many people, whether enthusiastic or reluctant readers, find that getting started on a book is the hardest part. Once you get going, as with watching a compelling TV series or movie, you get pulled into the story and it’s easier to keep reading.

Set aside a time and a place to read
As many do, I read before going to sleep most nights. It’s a calming ritual and many studies suggest that reading before bed can be a good way to ease into sleep, especially when compared with screen activities or listening to upbeat music. However, there are nights when I barely manage to fit in 5 minutes before nodding off. If I want to start a new book, I need to be able to focus a little more on new characters and plots that are unfamiliar. I often go to bed a good ½ hour earlier on nights when I have a new book. Or even better, I try to start the book in the morning by skipping some morning chore so it feels like a reward. Find a way to set aside 30 minutes or more when your child is starting a book. Consider letting them off the hook for a chore or disliked activity one day, or bring a book along when going someplace with a lot of down time and leave the electronics behind. Carve out the time in a purposeful way.

It’s also important to find a comfortable place to read, and that can be very individual. It doesn’t have to be perfectly quiet, but it ought to be free of whatever that person finds most distracting. Reading in a messy kitchen doesn’t work for me because I just want to get it cleaned first. But your child may be happiest at the kitchen table with you in the background making dinner. Reading with a computer nearby means I keep thinking about emails I need to send, so I try to put it away. Sitting outside on a nice day, or in a cozy spot indoors on a rainy day can both be great. After I finish a good chapter, I like to look off into the horizon and reflect on the story. Probably my favorite place to read is on a train or someplace where I am just sitting around, like an airport terminal. If you leave the devices behind and the only choice is a book, it’s easier.

Work with your child to figure out some of the best times and places to start a book and be open to the idea that it might not be what you think is most convenient or best!

Read aloud or try an audiobook
If your child has a little trouble getting a book underway, consider hooking them in by reading it aloud -- and no, they aren’t too old for read-alouds! -- or by getting an audiobook. Check with the public library for information about free audiobook options on CD or for download. One great technique when you’re going on a family car trip is to pick an audiobook that everyone in the car might enjoy. If you don’t want to listen to the entire audiobook, try the first few chapters and then offer the print version of the book. Once the story gets going, chances are good your child will want to keep reading and/or listening on their own (and you may be steailng the book yourself to find out what happens as well)!

Check in about the book
Once they’ve started to read a book, ask your child to tell you a little bit about it. Having them summarize information about the characters and the plot will help them to solidify their understanding. You may be able to explain background information about the setting that they find confusing, or look up information that will pique their interest. For instance, the book The Line Tender by Kate Allen is set in Rockport, and opens with a shark being hauled into the local pier. Allen based the scene on an actual event when she grew up here in Beverly, which she describes here in a blog post. A little digging finds an original 1996 news story about the shark that was caught 4 miles off the coast of Beverly! Help your child to make connections to the characters or to events. It turns out that background knowledge is one of the most important predictors for reading comprehension, not reading level. A relatively poor reader tackling an article on a subject they are knowledgeable about will understand more than a “better” reader with no background in the topic.

Start a mini “book club”
If your child and a friend (or group of friends) are interested in the same book, have them read it simultaneously. They can keep each other on track by setting goals for pages or chapters, and discuss what they like about the story or what confuses them. Or consider a parent-child book club, and invite the other parent(s) and child(ren) to get together for a pizza or snack when you’ve all finished the book. I’ll have some more tips on starting a parent-child book club and keeping it going later in the summer.

Just do it
As with most projects in life, whether it’s a craft, a chore, or exercise, the hardest part can be to getting started. Support your child by helping them figure out a good time, place, and way to get started on a book, and for many, that’s all it will take and they’ll be off and running.

Next week - Tips to stay on track with summer reading

Jul 2, 2019

Getting Your Summer Reading Book

July 2, 2019
by Alix Woznick

If you haven't gotten your summer reading book yet, now's the time! There are an increasing number of different places and ways to get summer reading books, and it may be worth considering alternatives to traditional print books. Each have pros and cons, so I’ve outlined a number of choices here to help you and your child figure out the best options.

Beverly Public Library

The Beverly Public Library is open in the summer Monday through Thursday from 9am to 9pm and on Friday and Saturday from 9am to 5pm. For more help, visit their website or call (978) 921-6062.

Print Books from the BPL
There are tables on the second (main) floor between the reference desk and the young adult area with stacks of the books from the BMS lists as well as the BHS list, and copies of the lists are also usually on the tables as well. If the book you are looking for is not on the table, be sure to ask at the reference desk. There may be a copy that was recently returned, and they are also happy to reserve a book for you and then contact you as soon as it’s available for pickup. Or you might just decide to pick one that’s already in!
Pros - You can go to the library and often get a book the very same day.
Cons - If the one you want is out, you may have to get on a list for it.
Audiobooks from the BPL
Most of the books on the BMS summer reading lists are available in audio from the public library, but not all are available in every format. Some of the audiobooks at the library are in a CD format. If you have a CD player in your car and want to bring it on a trip, that could be a good way to experience a great book with your whole family!

An increasing number of audiobooks may be accessed through the library’s digital collection using one of two free apps, Libby (for Overdrive titles) and Hoopla. The setup is simple; you will need your Beverly Public library card number. If you have questions about setting up Libby or Hoopla on your device or which titles are availalable, call the public library or stop by the reference desk for assistance.

Pros - Audiobooks can be a fun and different way to experience a book, may pull in reluctant readers, and are often helpful for children with certain learning disabilities. 
Cons - You need a CD player or an electronic device to play them. If you lose the thread of the story it can be a little more difficult to get back on track.

Ebooks from the BPL
Many of the summer reading titles are also available to read as ebooks through the library’s digital collection. You will need to download either Libby (for Overdrive) or Hoopla to access the books. The appropriate app will depend on the book. Some children enjoy reading ebooks, while many still prefer traditional print books.
Pros - Helpful features, like word lookups and the ability to adjust the font size and style to make it more readable. You can carry many ebooks on one device on vacation. No library books to lose or return! 
Cons - The book will automatically return at the end of the checkout time, whether you are done with it or not.

Local bookstores

We are fortunate to have not one, but two independent book shops in Beverly. Cabot Street Books is right downtown and has a display right in the front window with many of the summer reading books. The Book Shop in Beverly Farms also carries many of our summer reading titles and are happy to order any that might not be in stock. Most of the titles are in paperback and can often be purchased for $10 or less.
Pros - You can often get your book the same day, you’ll have it to keep -- take it on vacation, have it to refer to when doing the summer reading project, loan it to a friend!
 Cons - You have to pay for it and the book you want may be out of stock.
Get it online

All the books are available through Amazon and other online booksellers to purchase in a traditional book format and most are also in e-book format for download as well. If you have access to Audible, you may want to get your book that way as well, although keep in mind that like the ebooks and e-audiobooks you get from the library it will expire.

Pros - All the books are available from somewhere in nearly every format, so you can get the book you want.
 Cons - You have to pay for it. If you are ordering a book for delivery you may have to wait a few days.

Jun 26, 2019

Choosing Books to Read This Summer

by Alix Woznick
June 26, 2019

Some students will pick up and read nearly anything they come across, but for many, selecting a book is more complicated, and particularly if your child has some resistance to reading or has found challenges in the past. This week we give you information to guide your child to make choices that will help him or her to be happy and successful in their reading.

BMS Summer Reading Lists
All students entering grades six through eight at Beverly Middle School are required to read a book from a list provided by the school. These lists are carefully selected to balance a wide range of topics, interests, and protagonists and are of varying readlng levels and lengths. This year, the lists from BMS and from Beverly High School (BHS) are recommended for different grade levels, meaning that your child should first consult the list that is recommended for their grade level, but may end up finding a book on a list for a different grade level that is a great choice.
  • If your child is entering grade 6 start here - This list contains 10 books that are particularly recommended younger middle school students, often called middle grade readers. The stories mostly feature protagonists between about ages 10 and 12 and the topics are less “edgy” than books that are sold as YA, or young adult. However, some books may also be of interest to students in higher grades. Two of particular note for older middle or high school students: The Parker Inheritance and Spooked!
  • If your child is entering grades 7 or 8 start here - This list contains 21 books. There is a little something here for everyone: sports, fantasy, nonfiction, mystery, realistic fiction, historical fiction, funny and poignant stories, action and adventure, books set in the city and the country, books with a supernatural twist, books about family and friends -- and more. Most of these books feature characters who are in their early teens and who may be grappling with some more serious or complicated issues than those depicted in the books on the list recommended for younger children (although they are generally not as mature as many YA books read by high school students). Students entering grade 6 at BMS may choose from this list for their summer reading requirement, but parents or guardians should be aware of what they feel is appropriate for their child, depending on their family and their knowledge of their own child’s sensitivities or interests.
Just as younger BMS students may be drawn to some books on the “older” list recommended for grades 7 and up, some grade 8 BHS students might wish to consult the Beverly High School summer reading list. The books on this list are not necessarily more difficult, but they were generally written with an older teen or an adult audience in mind, and the subject matter often reflects that. BMS students may choose books from this list, but it is up to parents and guardians to decide if a book is appropriate for their child.

If your child is working with a teacher who has made alternate recommendations for books that are not on this list, then he or she should follow those directions. Examples might include a special education teacher, a summer school teacher, or an English language learner (ELL) teacher.

Students entering grade 5 are not required to choose a book from one of the BMS summer reading lists, and will not turn in a summer reading response assignment. However, they are encouraged to read widely over the summer, choosing books from the list of books recommended for grades 5 and up or from the Beverly Public Library children’s room list.

Connecting with a Book
When looking at these lists, ask your child to stop and think about the elements that attract them to a story to help make him or her aware of the selection process. Ask:
  • Is it a genre you like? Examples: fantasy, sci fi, mystery.
  • Is it a topic you love or want to know more about? Examples: sports, wartime, disability
  • Is it the characters that draw you in? Perhaps they are leading exciting lives, very different from your own, or it could be the reverse -- it’s great to seek out books featuring relatable characters grappling with issues that you or your friends are facing.
  • Is it the setting? There are books set in New England and New York that have places you may recognize or know a bit about, and there are books set in foreign places, like England and Europe -- and Mars!
  • Is it the pace or structure? Some books are real “page turners” with a lot of action, while others have a more deliberate pace that lets you delve into the characters more. Others tell a story from multiple perspectives, which can be either interesting or confusing, depending on your perspective. Some books have illustrations, and one book is written in verse. 
Books can also be a great, safe way to stretch your boundaries and explore new worlds. Encourage your child to consider the “Reading Without Walls” challenge that was proposed by Gene Luen Yang, a former National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature. Yang suggests that you try reading a book that features a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you, about a topic you don’t know much about, or in a format or genre that you don’t normally read for fun.

Finding a Book You Can Stay With
Once your child find a book that he or she wants to read, take a little closer look. Preview the book by taking time at the library or bookstore or online to ask your child to read the first few pages. Ask: Does the style of writing, characters or plot draw you in right away? Do you understand what is happening? Do you find the vocabulary understandable or extra-challenging?

For some children, the reading level and/or length could be a consideration.
  • Length - Each of the books on the BMS lists have information about the length in both number of pages and number of words. The average length is about 50,000 words. Some shorter books are less than that, while there are longer books that are in the range of 80,000-100,000 words. Keep in mind that some books are formatted differently, with larger fonts, graphics, or as a book in verse, the page number is not always a very reliable way to figure out how long a book will take to read. You can check the website ReadingLength.com to find more information about how long a book might take to read.
  • Reading level - The reading levels are designated on the BMS lists, as available, by the ATOS and Lexile measures. The ATOS readability formula evaluates the number of words per sentence, the number of characters in each word, and the difficulty of the words, and is expressed by a grade level. For example, a book level of 4.5 means the text could likely be read independently by a student whose reading skills are at the level of a typical fourth grader during the fifth month of school. The Lexile is another measure that is often used for both books and for readers. 
The length and reading levels should not usually be primary considerations, but they may be good to keep in mind. Remember that it is usually better to read a book that is of interest and is a little longer or more challenging than it is to pick a shorter or lower reading level book that is not a good fit. In addition, a lower Lexile or ATOS does not mean the book is intended for younger children. Nonfiction books nearly always have higher reading levels because they must include some very specific vocabulary. But children who are interested in the topic of the book will often know some of this vocabulary or be able to understand the writing with the context clues. If a child is motivated to read a book that is a little longer or more difficult than s/he might often pick, you may want to provide a little more support, which I will get into in future weeks on this blog.

The earlier in the summer your child starts on summer reading, the more flexibility he or she will have to discover the right books!

Last week: 8 Reasons to Read This Summer

Next week: Getting the Book - There are so many different places and ways to get a book now, and you might not even know about some of them. I will review them next time.

Summer Reading 2019 is here!

For those eager to get a peek at the Beverly Middle School Summer Reading lists, they are now available. We are a community of readers! ...