Until I worked in a library, I thought Summer Reading was just a fun way to get kiddos to come to the library and read some good books over the summer. It brought back memories of staying up late reading “The Saddle Club” under the covers with a flashlight long past my bedtime. While Summer Reading is definitely fun, I had no idea how vital it is to the community.
Summer Reading is a fixture at public libraries (and has been since the late 19th century) for good reason: it helps combat the “summer slide.” The summer slide is a term for the tendency children have to lose reading and math levels over the summer because they are not in a classroom every day. The steepness of this slide also varies based on socioeconomic status, with children from lower income families being disproportionately affected. I cannot do justice to the research and statistics surrounding this issue, but this article from Reading Rocket does a great job explaining in more detail and offering further resources. Summer Reading exists to mitigate this loss by getting kids reading.
You don’t get kids reading by giving them the statistics surrounding their projected test scores, though. You get them reading by making it fun. I am constantly in awe of our children’s team every summer (and, you know, all year round) and the creativity and hard work they put into getting kids excited about Summer Reading. The programs, the crafts, the decorations, the activities — I get jealous of every child and teen I see signing up for summer reading.
I can tell that I am not the only grown up who has such pleasant nostalgia attached to the words “Summer Reading.” On more than one occasion, I have been working at the Welcome Desk and an adult patron will comment something to the effect of, “I miss doing Summer Reading as a kid. I wish I could do it as an adult.” With a level of excitement bordering on aggression, I reach over, grab an adult’s summer reading pamphlet, slap it down on the desk in front of them and say “BUT YOU CAN!” The plexiglass barrier that is now installed at the desk prevents me from doing this with the same level of zeal, which we can probably agree is for the best. I just get really excited.
While adults don’t necessarily have to worry about the summer slide the way kids do, you do not stop learning the second you take your last class in a formal setting. We are all about lifelong learning here at the library, and adult summer reading offers the opportunity to read and review books, complete activities, get a fun finisher’s prize and possibly win an Amazon fire tablet. You get to read any three books you want and write reviews for them (and the only thing I like more than hearing other people’s bookish opinions is giving my own). You also get to complete the seven suggested activities of your choosing.
These activities have many purposes. Some encourage you to use your library in new ways, like getting a library card, attending an online program, or downloading a book or streaming a movie through one of our apps). Some help you read more broadly like reading our One Read book, “A Gentleman in Moscow,” or reading a book with “Story” in the title. Some invite you to connect more with your community, like going to a local park or garden or asking an older relative to tell you a story. The common purpose, however, is having a good time. Why should the kids have all of the fun?
So, what are you waiting for, my fellow grown ups? Go sign up for Summer Reading!