Libraries play a big role in preventing the summer slide with programs that incentivize reading. Interestingly, when adults learn that I’m a children’s librarian, one of the first things they tell me about is how much they loved the summer reading program when they were growing up. They all have different stories. Some talked about tracking the books and the stack of lists they kept, others described the excitement of reading a certain number of books and getting to choose a prize, still others mentioned the great programs that were offered during that time. All of them have a positive association of summer reading and a memory of their library that has stood out for them over many years.
I love hearing stories like this, because my goal for summer reading has always been to encourage reading in a way that makes it fun. I recently found an article on summer reading that was sent to me in 2018 from a friend living in a small town in North Carolina, and one of the things that stood out for me in the article was the library’s focus on the child and recognizing their individual strategies of processing and assimilating information. Children were given a variety of ways they could participate in summer reading, from counting books or minutes, to listening to audiobooks, having an adult read to them, or even time spent reading to a non-reader. JCLS is equally focused on the individual child and offers the same options for our summer reading participants. I especially like that at JCLS, a child has the choice of tracking minutes and/or tracking books. Tracking minutes is especially important to a reader tackling a more challenging chapter book — this gives them the opportunity to sit and enjoy the book without worrying about not getting enough books read to qualify for prizes.
Programming is another important aspect of summer reading; it’s an opportunity to reach out to those children and families we may not normally see during the school year. Programs are also a great way to offer something fun and free for everyone in the community and to hopefully foster that positive experience of the library that will influence individuals for years to come. Above and beyond that, programming is a non-threatening way for children and families to learn about the library, literature, and other services we provide. All of us who plan and implement programming put a lot of time and effort into what we offer, so it brings us great joy when we see folks relaxing, smiling, and having fun. It totally makes it all worth the effort.