Summer Reading at the Library! (page 2)
"When I step into this library, I cannot understand why I ever step out of it."
— Marie de Sevigne, French Noble 1626-1696
Grade Levels: All
As a child my mother would take me to the library nearly every week. The children's area was brightly decorated with lots of posters of popular children's books and slogans encouraging reading. As a child these items were not that motivational to me, but what did thrill me was the large, leather bean bag chair in the shape of a catcher's mitt that sat in the corner and held approximately 12 children. It was a wonderful place to gather books and lounge while discovering the joy of reading.
I was also thrilled the day I asked the librarian, "How many books am I allowed to take out?" and she replied, "There is no limit." That day I went home with the whole shelf of Encyclopedia Brown books. For the record I wasn't very good at solving the mysteries, but I sure enjoyed reading them. Libraries today have changed in a number of ways to meet the demands of our modern society, but their underlying purpose for children is still to help them discover the joy of reading. As summer approaches, many local libraries advertise special summer reading programs and activities to keep children enthusiastic about reading.
Importance of Summer Reading
- The number of books read during the summer is consistently related to academic gains.
- Children in every income group who read six or more books over the summer gained more in reading achievement than children who did not.
- The use of the public library during the summer is more predictive of vocabulary gains than attending summer school is.
More recently Stephen Krashen, a well respected researcher in the field of language development, released a study called "Summer Reading and the Potential Contribution of the Public Library in Improving Reading for Children of Poverty" (2004). The research indicates that there is very little difference in reading gains between children from high- and low-income families during the school year.
The difference occurs over the summer when children from high-income families read more because they have more access to books. Public library reading programs provide an opportunity for low-income children to access a great number of books and it is important that library systems continue to expand their literature collections and increase the number of readability levels of text in order to provide true access to children from a variety of backgrounds. The basic premise is common sense — children who read more, get better at reading, and therefore comprehend more of what they read.
Library summer reading programs
Most libraries kick off a summer reading program that involves children registering as part of the program and receiving a "reading log" and perhaps some other small gifts, such as bookmarks and pencils. Children are encouraged to read as much as possible and enter the names of the books in their log to be turned in at the end of summer for a prize. In my experience this hasn't been a strict competition, but rather a chance to offer praise and recognition for a child's dedication to reading over the summer.
I believe my own children lost their reading logs and the kind librarian let them "fill in" the books they remembered reading that summer in order to get a certificate and prize. The Bright Ideas Hotlinks section has links to library system websites from many of the larger cities across the nation. If you don't see your local library system listed, please take a moment to search for your library's website and explore the resources available to help your students discover the joys of summer reading.
Library Resources and ELL students
Some ELL students may have limited experience with libraries in their own countries due to the lack of a library or membership fees. It is especially helpful if the students can take a field trip to a local library to get library cards and a tour of the resources and materials that might be interesting to them. Students may be excited to discover free internet access, computer programs, music, various technologies, English language conversation circles, museum passes, and of course, books (both bilingual and English.)
It is important to encourage students to read in their native language if materials are available. Although it seems counter-intuitive, students who read in their first language actually gain stronger reading and comprehension skills in English. The main idea is — if children read a lot, they will be better readers, no matter what language. If you are not sure what resources may be available for your students it is a good idea to call your library system's central offices and ask about bilingual programming, resources, and even the possibility of setting up a classroom visit from a librarian who can register the students for library cards.
Many libraries also have a section of "high interest/low readability" books that ELL students may enjoy because they can read the stories easily and won't get bogged down in difficult vocabulary or grammar structures.
Reprinted with the permission of Colorín Colorado. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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