Friday, May 9, 2003

Summer Reading! Enjoyment and Enrichment All In One

The National Assessment of Education Progress has found that more than 40% of students are unable to read at basic levels. When you consider that research provided by the Reading First Program indicates that children who read well in the early grades are far more successful in later years, the importance of encouraging reading at a young age becomes clear. While strong reading programs in school are imperative, we as teachers cannot underestimate the value of children?s learning to read at home for pleasure. Summer poses both an excellent opportunity and a challenge to get children to read on their own.

According to the American Association of School Librarians, reading proficiency increases with the amount of voluntary independent reading. They go on to say that children who read during the summer gain reading skills, while those who do not actually lose skills. Such findings indicate how very important it is to prepare your students and their parents for a summer filled with continued reading and learning.

The American Library Association has several suggestions for things parents can do to encourage their children to read over the summer. Recommend that your students? parents make use of some of these practices this summer. In order to best facilitate reading, parents should:

* Make a time and place for reading in the home and encourage talking about reading in their family.
* Take advantage of ?waiting? time to share books: on trips, at the doctor?s office, etc.
* Set a good example by reading themselves and let children know that reading can be not only educational, but also fun.
* Allow children to select books that interest them rather than choosing their reading material for them.
* Take children to get library cards and give them access to a world of reading material.

In order to promote the importance of reading over summer vacation, public libraries have developed the Vacation Reading Program. The two basic elements of the Vacation Reading Program are a) a self-directed, independent reading component and b) a programming effort to encourage children to visit the library on a regular basis during vacation from school. Libraries often offer special programs and incentives to encourage readers of all ages to read for pleasure.

Here in Georgia, the Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) takes Vacation Reading very seriously! During the 2002 Vacation Reading Program, more than 300,000 children and families participated, checking out 3.8 million books and attending 6,500 programs. The theme for the 2003 Vacation Reading Program is Books Ahoy! Georgia children will have the opportunity to read exciting books and participate in fun activities around this underwater theme. Local public libraries will sponsor many activities, including reading books about marine biology, ?fishy? word games and puzzles, story time and sing-alongs with pirates, arts and crafts with sea creatures, and video about ocean adventures! Visit the GPLS website to learn more about Books Ahoy! or to help your students locate the public library nearest their homes.