The importance of summer reading programs at the library

School’s out, or soon will be. “No more classes! No more books! No more teachers’ dirty looks!” That “no more books” part is a problem, though–especially if it lasts all summer. Libraries pick up the slack.

Children who don’t read over the summer return in the fall having lost some of their reading ability. That puts them behind, or farther behind, their reading classmates–as much as two years behind by the time they finish sixth grade.

Some children are bookworms. They will read all summer simply for the joy of it. Others struggle with reading in school, and of course these are the ones who will lose the most over the summer.

Students living in poverty and students in some minorities are at special risk. Research indicates that half or more of the achievement gap between these students and their more affluent counterparts results from summer learning loss.
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Summer reading at the library

The simple fact that the public library is not in the school building is a tremendous advantage. Chlldren who struggle in school don’t like the school and would prefer not to go there. Here are some more advantages:

  • There are no tests at the end. And therefore the classroom time spent on test preparation can be devoted to other enrichment activities.
  • Library programs make adjustments for the needs of individual children.
  • With no curricular considerations beyond reading for its own sake, struggling readers can work with other material besides books, including graphic novels, recorded books, magazines, and even selected online reading.
  • Children get to pick what they read. They can choose material about movies, entertainment, and other things important to their peer group. That is an important incentive to read voluntarily whether they struggle with reading or not.
  • Voluntary readers not only read better, they also write and spell better and generally out-perform students who read only what’s assigned in school.
  • Beyond learning, library reading programs provide structure, supervision, individual attention, and a safe atmosphere.
  • When participants return year after year, they build reading into their summer routine–a benefit that will last a lifetime after graduation.

Your public library probably has a well-established summer reading program. A lot of planning and dedication has gone into it. It has made a difference in the lives of many children over the years. Spread the word!
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Photo credit: Some rights reserved by San Jose Library.

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