For me, summer is about road trips and hammocks, mosquitoes and bicycles, picking cherries, sleeping in tents, gardening, swimming and, perhaps most important of all, no more socks!
Another summertime tradition for families in BC is Summer Reading Club at the library. Since 1990, the BC Library Association and local public libraries have sponsored a provincial Summer Reading Club which encourages summer reading and public library use by school-age children and families in BC.
The program is not about grades or benchmarks or assessments. The focus is purely on reading for enjoyment. Children choose what they want to read, and simply note down each day what they are reading. They receive incentives to keep up with their reading throughout the summer, including stickers, prizes, and a medal and certificate for completing the program. They can also take part in optional activities at the library each week.
Just because this program is about recreational reading doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have real, tangible benefits for children. In a landmark study, researchers at John Hopkins University found that the “achievement gap at ninth grade mainly traces to differential summer learning over the elementary years.” Furthermore, these achievement gaps “substantially account for” differences in high school graduation and university attendance rates. In other words, summer learning during childhood has significant impacts on lifelong academic success.
Participating in a fun, reading-based program like Summer Reading Club is a great way to keep learning happening year-round while still allowing kids to have fun, explore, and take a much-needed break from more formal learning.
Recreational reading has lifelong benefits that extend well beyond academic success. Recreational reading has been shown to reduce stress, improve cognitive ability, reduce the symptoms of depression and dementia, increase earning potential, promote tolerance and understanding, inspire self-improvement, and increase life expectancy. In short, recreational readers are healthier, wealthier and live longer than their non-reading counterparts.
What more important gift can a parent give to their children than the gift of lifelong reading?
When it comes to encouraging reading in children, there is no more powerful means than the method illustrated by the quaint children’s book Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, which in turn is reportedly derived from a West African folktale, a method that may be distilled into the simple and noble phrase, “monkey see, monkey do”. Let your children see you reading regularly and consistently and, chances are, you will raise a lifelong reader.
The second best thing you can do is get registered in Summer Reading Club at the library. It is free, it is fun, and you will see the difference it makes.
Aaron Francis is the Chief Librarian at Creston Valley Public Library. He is currently reading Deep River Night by Patrick Lane.