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Summer Reading Program

Summer reading programs offer children the opportunity to maintain and improve their reading skills and further their reading education. Summer reading programs are often sponsored by libraries, bookstores, and government agencies.

Research shows that students can loose ground in their reading skills over the summer if they do not engage in reading. As a result, a number of summer reading programs have been created to help support students’ academic progress during the summer, while also focusing on the fun aspects of reading. Reading every day is recommended, and this can include silent book reading, family storytime, listening to books on tape, and/or reading magazines.

Sponsored by libraries, bookstores, and government agencies, summer reading programs promote not only reading but also socializing with peers around books, opportunities to watch movies, use computers, meet authors, hear stories read aloud, complete puzzles, win prizes, participate in polls, and earn free books. Some online summer reading sites have moderated message boards, where students, whose safety is protected by a first name only policy, can post messages about books and related matters. By way of checking that students have read the books they claim and to encourage writing skills, students are often asked to complete a brief book review or comment on their favorite part of the book.

Most summer reading programs have different levels for different age groups. Some have “kids” and “teens,” while others have smaller groups by grades or “elementary,” “middle,” and “high school” categories. Whatever the categories, you will almost inevitably find that reading lists are offered matching these categories.

Reading lists typically include “classic” children’s books and prize-winning titles such as Newbery and Caldecott Medal  and the International Reading Association Children’s Book Awards winners. Usually some very recent titles are offered along with some old standbys. By the middle school level, there is generally a mix of authors who write specifically for children and authors who don’t, but whose material is deemed appropriate.

Keeping in mind that your criteria for what your child reads may differ from the recommender’s, you may wish to do three things. First, look for lists that include a synopsis of the book and, if possible, criteria for the ratings. Second, use lists from organizations whose values are similar to your own. Third, read the book before recommending or giving it to your child. This last step will both prepare you to discuss the book and field questions of various kinds about its contents, but also allow you to make your own judgment about the book’s appropriateness for your particular child.

Many organizations offer thematic summer programs. For example, the 2006 program from Barnes and Noble was based on the Lemony Snicket books and called “A Summer of Unfortunate Events,” while the New York Public Library theme for that year was “Books: A Treasure!” So, if your local bookstore or library doesn’t have a theme that grabs your child, try the other - likely there’s a different approach available.

Some colleges also sponsor summer reading programs. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill asks incoming students to all read a specified book. On a day in August, they meet in small groups with school faculty and staff to discuss the book. This activity is meant to promote a sense of community as well as critical thinking skills. The book for 2007 is The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions by Sister Helen Prejean.

Written by Mary Elizabeth