Reading in summer: It’s a good thing

By Frances Smith / Guest Columnist

Extra sleep, visits to the pool, camping. This summer, whether days are slow and lazy or hectic and crazy, families may want to pencil in trips to the public library and the fun of reading.

Last month, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) reported that an average student who doesn’t read or take advantage of

learning opportunities can lose as much as two and half months over the summer. That’s why we at the Albert L. Scott Library in Alabaster, are standing by ready, willing and able to help. At our library more than 530 children are already engaged in our Summer Challenge. Children under 11 are “Catching the Reading Bug” and those over 11 are celebrating “Metamorphosis at Your Library.” Our challenge is part of the National Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP) involving 46 states.

Summer reading programs are not a recent innovation. History shows that as far back as the 1890s such programs existed for children in cities and those not busy with farm work so they would become habitual readers and library users.

Summer reading can keep learning skills sharp. Studies show that students score lower on standardized tests by summer’s end. Studies also show that reading at least six books during the summer can prevent a struggling reader from regressing.

Our library kicked off our challenge in early June, but children can still sign up. Young children get the chance to win a bike, while older kids can read to win an iPod.

In 2001, a study by the Los Angeles County Public Library Foundation found that 77 percent of the parents of participants in such programs reported their youngsters read about nine hours or less per week before starting the program. The National Center for Family Literacy has found that dramatic arts can help boost kids’ reading. So, we also offer crafts, story times and visits from magicians, musicians, cowboys, jugglers, puppeteers and others. Besides helping kids connect with what they can read about, we hope we’re serving families by offering free entertainment locally.

This summer, families can decide how many books and how much time to devote to the reading challenge. We have the books, and the kids will get the skills.

Frances Smith is the youth services librarian for the Albert L. Scott Library in Alabaster