“When I say to a parent, “read to a child”, I don’t want it to sound like medicine. I want it to sound like chocolate.”
— Mem Fox
As a bookseller for a decade and a Children’s Librarian for almost as long, I like to meditate on that quotation. I want reading to be a decadent treat. A stay-up-past-your-bedtime-with-the-flashlight treat. A squeal with joy treat. A hug-the-book-to-your-chest-when-it’s-all over-treat. It’s part of my job to inspire that, and I take the challenge seriously.
I LOVE finding soul mates for books. I adore the light in a child’s eyes when they come in and tell me about a story they read and how much they liked it. Even if it’s a strike, I can’t give up. One day, I’ll find the right story for them. Sometimes the fact that I’m an adult who is listening to them is really the most important thing, and I’ll let my book stroll slow while they chat.
I cannot bear to weed my own personal collection because each book is tied to a memory, evoking a sensory reaction much like scent or flavor.
I Was Raised a Reader
I remember getting a library card. I remember the bookmobile coming to our neighborhood and the smell of the library books and how hard it was to limit myself to just a few books each week. Every summer night, I’d stay up late reading. The freedom to read was delicious. I could choose whatever I wanted! Ponies? No prob. Ghost stories with Jeffrey? Done! Mysteries? Sure thing. I had a parent that read, too. I learned a lot from her.
During the summer, when the days and nights stretch into infinity before August rears her schoolhouse maw, there is a LOT to do. In the library world, we have Summer Reading. You may wonder why we get so excited about it, but it’s more than just fun programming that’s free and open to the community: it’s good for your brain.
Studies show that lack of access to reading materials over the summer months when children are not in school can have a serious, detrimental effect on learning retention. Have you ever heard the phrase “if you don’t use it, you lose it?” Well, it’s true. For learning in particular it’s called the Summer Slide and it’s not the fun kind. The bad news is that this slide’s effects can be cumulative, making it harder and harder to “catch up” over the years.
Don’t Panic – There’s Good News!
Reading just 15-20 minutes a day can make a huge difference. This statement has garnered skepticism in the past, particularly with reluctant/struggling readers or the very young. Yet study after study shows that reading, and reading consistently, is beneficial. A child doesn’t have to be a stellar reader to begin with. As long as there is consistency, then fluency can be built upon. Read WITH your child.
- Check out the audio book along with the print copy.
- Read the book, and then watch the movie together.
- Read the book, then visit a place mentioned or imagine what that place might look like together.
Set an Example for Your Child
If they see YOU read for pleasure, they are much more likely to do the same. I was that kid for sure. With the very young, put a book in a toy box, so they’re seen as an explorative activity, too. That way, books aren’t off-limits objects. Board books WILL go into mouths: that’s how babies learn about the world. Wipe off drool and talk about the pictures with your baby. You might feel crazy but your baby will love it. The bottom line is: just read! These stories and experiences touch your lives and your hearts and make memories. Can you recall favorite childhood tales? Children’s and Young Adult literature has experienced nothing short of a renaissance, and there are wonderful stories out there! Seriously!
The GREAT News?
Your local library is your Summer Slide Battle Buddy. Our Summer Reading Club helps kids track time spent reading in a fun and easy way with a simple reading log. For every two hours spent reading, they can bring their reading log into their local branch and get it stamped. Then they can add a bubble to the “Fizz Boom Read” Mad Scientist’s Chemistry Set!
At the end of the summer, our chemistry set will be completely covered with bubbles, and many hours will have been spent with some awesome books. We don’t stress about reading levels, or AR points or any of that. We want to find that perfect book for your child to spark their imagination and love for learning. Everything else follows naturally. At the end of summer, reading logs can be turned into any branch of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library for a Summer Reading prize drawing blowout! It’s a cool way to celebrate reading accomplishments for all participants at all reading levels and abilities. Most locations also host a party to celebrate Summer Reading in July. Check out hmcpl.org or your local branch for more information. You can find out more about our Summer Reading Program here: View Website.
Ask a Librarian
Your local librarians are your best resources for finding the next great book to read, listen to or download. Don’t be shy! As for me, I’m, reading the Riverman by Aaron Starmer and listening to the Unwanteds by Lisa McCann. My daughter and I are reading Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play with Your Food! at bedtime by the always fabulous Bob Shea & Cinderelephant by Emma Dodd. Next up in my queue: Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage, Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd and The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.
Got a question or want to share a reading tip that worked for your family? Leave me a comment below – I love comments!