Summer is here! At the library that means Summer Reading, and it is serious fun. Summer Reading is one of the longest-running, most ubiquitous public library programs. Pretty much every public library in the country has a Summer Reading program for kids. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know why it is so important to keep children reading over the summer. With schools closed for the season and school libraries unavailable, public libraries everywhere jump into action to provide access to books and motivate kids to keep reading and learning all summer long. Every summer, library staff work hard to support kids and families so students are ready to pick up where they left off when they get back to school in the fall. 

It is a big deal. Months of planning, huge publicity efforts, and large proportions of libraries’ annual programming budgets go into making Summer Reading a success. Keeping kids reading over the summer is important, and it (rightfully) receives most of the focus, but it is not the whole story. 

Because (and here’s the part that you might not already know) Summer Reading is not just for kids! Teens have their own program, with activities and prizes designed to meet their interests, and adults get to participate, too. All over Jackson County, our library branches have Summer Reading events planned for adults from June-August. Just like the children’s program, adults can sign up to track their reading on Beanstack (either online or in an app) or in a paper reading log, read four books and earn a free book. After that milestone, each book you read, each event you attend, and each review you write in Beanstack gets you closer to earning a prize and a chance to be entered in our prize drawings. Winning things just for reading? That’s pretty fantastic. 

I’m definitely a fan of prizes, but I’ve always thought that while the prizes are a nice bonus, reading is its own reward. For kids, what we really want is for them to discover or maintain a love of reading that motivates them all year, even without freebies and cool prizes. For adults, we see summer as a good time to remind you of the pleasure of reading and encourage everyone to make space for reading in their lives.  

I read all the time as a child. Now, as an adult with a job, kids, and other claims on my time and attention, I don’t read as much as I would like. I miss the freedom to dive headlong into a book and only come up for air many chapters later, with no idea how much time had passed. If, like me, you were a kid who read voraciously, do you remember the heady anticipation of opening a new book you’d been looking forward to? Do you remember the friends you made within those pages? How passionately you rooted for the characters? As a kid, I cared so very deeply about the characters I met in books that some part of me lived in their world for as long as the story lasted, and maybe even after I closed the book. I grieved when we had to part ways at the end of a favorite book and hoped desperately for a sequel.  

Maybe you’ve held onto that as an adult, but just maybe the responsibilities of adulthood have made it difficult to recapture that feeling. Have bills and current events and needing to feed the kids (again!) distracted you from reading just a bit? If so, why not let this be the summer you rediscover the childlike joy of reading for pleasure? 

Maybe your relationship with books and reading is different from mine. Maybe you came to pleasure reading later in life, or maybe reading has never been a favorite pastime—you grew up playing outside, listening to music, drawing, or watching movies, or maybe you had the kind of childhood where adult worries and responsibilities came early and you didn’t have the leisure to spend a lot of time reading. 

Whatever your story, Summer Reading is for you. If you’d like to read more, why not use the Summer Reading program as a motivator? You can read four books this summer! I know you can, especially if you choose books that you really, really want to read, not just books that you feel you should read. That’s what we tell the kids. Summer Reading is when you get to choose for yourself and read whatever you’re most excited about, instead of reading what your teacher assigns. Indulge yourself, adults! It is summertime, and you can read what you want, instead of what that responsible inner voice tells you to read. 

And if you need even more motivation, here are a few more good reasons to set aside some time for reading this summer: 

  • You can be a Reading Role Model. When children see adults reading, it communicates that those adults think reading is a valuable use of their time. If you have kids in your life, read where they can see you enjoying it. That is way more powerful than just telling them they should read. 
  • Reading is exercise for your mind. It keeps your brain healthy, nimble, and active as you age.  
  • Reading exposes you to new ideas and perspectives on the world. Reading builds empathy, something the world can always use more of. 
  • Reading for pleasure is a transferable skill. Avid readers tend to be stronger writers and communicators, which are useful skills in work as well as in personal life. 
  • Oh, and did I mention prizes?  

Our Summer Reading theme this year is Treasure Reading, so I’m going to challenge you to contemplate what you treasure about reading. That might be remembering treasured books and characters from your childhood and seeking to engage with books in that way again. It might mean finding new books to treasure or sharing old treasures with friends. It might mean treasuring yourself enough to carve out time in your busy adult life to settle in with a book you’ve been really wanting to read. It might mean something else. Whatever it means for you, remember that adults deserve to have a wonderful summer of reading and JCLS is here to help!