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Encourage Summer Reading

July 8, 2007

With the summer season in full swing, children across the state are enjoying some well-deserved time away from school.  Although many of Alabama’s children relax during the dog days of summer, that doesn’t mean that all learning ends when the school year does. 


It’s likely that Huckleberry Finn or Atticus Finch are the last things on children’s minds right now, but the fact is that our children need to be reading.  Summer reading is a vital part of scholastic growth and something that every child in Alabama should be participating in. 


It is no secret that motivating children to read—for pleasure, as well as for school—is an important factor in a student’s ability to achieve.  Children who are successful readers are also successful students.  In fact, research has shown that children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.


Because of this, many libraries and schools across the nation have developed summer reading programs. Summer reading programs began in the 1890s as a way to encourage schoolchildren to use the library and develop the habit of reading.  Summer programs help ensure that schoolchildren retain reading and learning skills over the break. Children are naturally curious, and summer reading is a great way to introduce new subjects and different genres—things kids might not study in school but are interested in.


Approximately 15 to 30 state library associations combine their resources to develop a common theme to encourage children to read during the summer.  This year’s theme for elementary school children is “Get a clue at your library.”  The theme for teenagers is “You never know at your library.”


Many libraries also work in conjunction with school reading lists.  These lists are developed by each school and contain one to five books that children must read over the summer months.  Schools view summer reading as a way of guiding kids to reading materials, and many use it to develop skills such as vocabulary and comprehension.  Many schools also have an accelerated reader program. 


Getting an early start is one of the most important factors in developing successful students, and there are things that everyone can do to ensure that children have a solid reading foundation.  Start by reading to your children when they are young, but don’t forget to keep reading with them into their teen years.  Give books as presents and register for a library card in your child’s name.  Allow your child to select books and be aware of your child’s reading interests.  Finally, set a good example by reading on your own.


Whether you are a parent or grandparent, aunt or uncle, cousin or sibling, or just a friend, I encourage you to stress the importance of summer reading.  Not only is it a great way to beat the heat, it’s also an exciting and educational way for children to spend their summer.