Tails and Tales: Summer Reading 2021
May 24, 2021 – Sharon Anderson, Youth Services Coordinator
You can sum up summer reading at the library with 6 words: Read books. Earn prizes. Have fun!
This is my 21st summer reading program at the Cape Girardeau Public Library, and it’s my favorite time of the year. Why? Because summer is when I get to help connect children and teens with great books without the constraints of reading lists, reading levels, assignments, and tests. Summer reading is when young readers get to explore the world of reading for fun. Children and teens get to read WHAT they want without having to take a test to verify comprehension (I’m looking at YOU, Accelerated Reader). Adults, would you want to have to take a test over every book read? News flash! Neither does your child. Summer reading is free-range reading in the wild!
Granted, there are important reasons why children should be reading during the summer. Teachers will tell you that summer reading helps stop the summer slide–the term educators use when they talk about the ground students lose during the months between May and August each year. For many children, learning slows way down (or even stops) in the summer. This is especially true for children growing up in poverty. Poorer families too often miss out on enrichment activities that many wealthier families take for granted: enrichment camps, access to books at home, visits to museums, and family road trips that immerse young minds in new experiences are just a few. Summer slide and the lack of learning opportunities for poorer families have serious long-term effects. It takes almost two months at the beginning of the school year to get children caught back up to the level they were at when school let out in May. Summer slide is one of the most significant causes of the achievement gap between poorer and wealthier students, and teachers tell us that that gap is growing year by year. Each year, it takes longer to make up the lost ground. The cumulative effect is a crisis in the making: by fifth grade, summer learning loss can leave low-income students as much as two-and-a-half to three years behind their peers.
Libraries and summer reading programs are here to help bridge that gap, providing free enrichment opportunities that nurture and cultivate children’s curiosity. We have staff who have years of experience helping reluctant readers and voracious readers alike find books that are the right fit. We also know that summer reading has to be FUN or children aren’t going to want to participate. Even though we aren’t able to program face-to-face, we’ve put together summer program kits with STEAM-based activities that encourage design-thinking and build problem-solving skills: LEGO challenges, Messy Science programs, art programs, and community journals that encourage children and teens to explore and get in touch with their own creativity. The reading program encourages children to make independent reading choices, set reading goals, and explore reading genres. Prizes such as gift cards to area businesses, free books, and grand prize bicycles provided by UCT, VFW Post 3838 and the Ladies’ Auxiliary, and the Friends of the Library may serve as incentives for reluctant readers. But the real goal is helping children and teens develop the habit of life-long learning and to discover the joy of reading for reading’s sake.
Here are some ways you can help your child discover their love of reading:
• Make a time and a place for reading in your home and encourage talking about reading in your family.
• Set the example – read on your own.
• Allow your child to select books to read and be aware of your child’s reading interests.
• Get to know the children’s librarians; they can hook you up with great books.
• Register your child for a library card. Get the one free card that brings you a world of opportunity – no matter what your age.
• When preparing for family road trips, stock up on audiobooks from the library. Let your children choose some stories to listen to in the car.
• Have family members share favorite ghost stories and/or adventure stories around the campfire at picnics and on camping trips.