Like most kids, I lived for summer breaks.
Every year, while my little brother was outside playing, I was traveling to far-away places and meeting amazing people, all from the comfort of my air-conditioned bedroom. My brother played from sun up to sun down, and I read.
By the time school started in the fall, my summer reading log was overflowing.
That love of reading hasn’t stopped. As an adult, I’ve built my career writing and editing books, and I’ve passed my love of the written word on to my ten-year-old daughter who has been reading since she was four. While reading is a year-round enjoyment for us, we both look forward to the summer when things are a little more leisurely and we can take part in summer reading at our local library. For us, it’s a yearly rite of passage and an official kickoff to summer.
What I didn’t realize as a child, but I’m very aware of now as a parent is how much reading during the summer had a positive impact on me during the school year. Libraries and schools have known this fact for years.
“There are numerous studies that support the importance of children and teens reading in the summer,” said Taneisha Young Tucker, director of Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest. “Continuous reading and comprehension correlate to success in school and overall academic performance and achievement.”
Dr. Anjell Harris Edwards, assistant principal of Hewitt-Trussville Middle School agrees. “With the increasing rigor associated with the College and Career Ready Standards, students are required to think more critically and generate well-crafted written responses to discussion questions. It is important for parents to encourage students to read throughout the year, including summer, and to engage in thoughtful discussions/questioning activities with their students so that these skills are nurtured and enhanced.”
To help students avoid the summer slide, which according to the Reading Is Fundamental website is the educational ground that is lost during the three months children are out of school, many libraries offer summer reading programs and other activities.
“In addition to encouraging reading, we also offer fun and educational programming,” Tucker said. “During summer, we make sure we provide opportunities for patrons of all ages to participate in programs… From weekly story times to our monthly outdoor concert series, there is something for everyone.”
Parents should not just rely on libraries to facilitate reading. If your child does not have a love of reading, then serve as an example.
“Let (children) see you reading for pleasure…and let them read things they like. If your son loves sports, there’s no reason he has to read War and Peace if he’d more enjoy Sports Illustrated,” said Ginger Rue, author of the upcoming book Tig Ripley, Rock n’ Roll Rebel (Sleeping Bear Press, Sept. 2016).
Tucker agrees. “Parents can participate by demonstrating reading can be done for recreation. The summer library program isn’t just for the children. It is for everyone. Parents are invited to join our program for adults and have a great summer of reading as well.”
Count me in. When my daughter and I went to register for summer reading this year—the same week she was honored at school for making straight A’s and for her outstanding work in language arts—I couldn’t help but smile when she ran up to me at the library, eyes big and bright, and exclaimed, “Okay, I need to calm down. The library has the next book in the series I’ve been reading.”
That’s the perfect start to a great summer of reading.
This article originally appeared on Alabama Family Connections magazine.