Families: Participation in ‘Summer Reading’ is More Beneficial Than Ever

Make time for reading and library visits this summer.

Every summer, libraries all over the country provide activities and prizes to keep kids reading during their school vacation. ‘Summer reading’ is fun and serves an essential purpose. The ‘summer slide’ in reading skills is a genuine concern. The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the issue while highlighting the inequalities in technology and Internet access. Libraries aim to address these concerns. Though most attention has gone to younger children, teens benefit from summer reading incentives.

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What is Summer Reading?

Summer reading is an incentive program that most public libraries offer to children, teens, and adults. Typically, it includes increased programming during the summer months, prizes, badges for hours logged reading, and other enticing incentives to visit the library and read.

Why Does Summer Reading Matter?

Even in ‘normal’ times, prioritizing summer reading takes intention at times. Other forms of entertainment (movies, TV, online games), friends, jobs, and social commitments all compete. After spending an average of 2.7 hours each weeknight on homework for nine months, kids may feel that spending their free time reading is much like school. It’s little wonder that some kids do not pick up books or magazines in the summer months. Being a part of engaging reading incentives at the library can bring new joy to their reading experiences.

Summer Reading in the Context of the Pandemic

Like everything else, the pandemic affected kids’ school experiences. Rather than the two-month deficit that the ‘summer slide’ creates in the worst cases, some students are 9 to 12 months behind. The stress is likely to make the homework situation worse. Schools do not only educate but also address social needs. Summer reading has never mattered more. Libraries can offer students a space to explore their love of reading and positively interact with others.

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Making the Most of Summer Reading

Let kids read what they want and highlight books that focus on topics of interest. Reading books of choice feeds into the satisfaction we all feel at being an expert on something. The most important question is, ‘are kids reading?’ Don’t worry about the format. Both audiobooks and comics count as reading.

Let your kids see you reading. Kids of all ages watch what their parents do, so if you want them to read, find some materials of your own. Giving only twenty minutes a day to a book can have significant benefits. It highlights that a small amount of time spent reading is better than no time.

Technology Can Help

Embrace technology rather than fight it. Every social media platform has book lovers on it. Find out which kids like and find the book influencers. Most of all, use your local library. Call your library to ask about their summer reading incentives and activities both in-person and online. If you can’t visit the library in person, ask your librarians about checking ou books on your computer, phone, or tablet and attending virtual programs.

These tactics are more accessible for some families to embrace than others. Some parents work hours that prevent library visits. Many neighborhoods lack bookstores and libraries, making the most basic tenet of having books available a problematic task. Access to technology that can support reading and educational applications is a problem for some families. Internet access is expensive and difficult to access in some areas. These fundamental problems have placed many kids behind in their studies, and teens have less time to make them up.

Can participating in the local library’s summer reading program help address this? If not, it behooves us as a society to figure out ways to get books into the hands of our children and teens. Our future depends on it.