Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Hardest Part of Summer Reading

Summer is here at if you work in the Public Library, than Summer equals Summer Reading and Summer Reading Programs.

Summer Reading encourages kids to read during their school break, read for fun and enjoyment, and keep up their reading so they avoid the Summer Slide. I think we do a great job promoting that kids should read during the Summer at my library and we have great involvement and feedback about our Summer Reading Program. Parents comment that kids were motivated to read, they had fun, and that they used the activities on the game board to create fun activities for their family over Summer. This is all great and I love it, but there is a very hard part to Summer Reading that happens each and every year. No matter how much I try, I always hear the following comments:

"Read real books." 
"You can only read books on your level."
"Listening doesn't count in our house."

When I hear these or other similar statements, I have to try really hard to make sure I don't make this face:
Photo Credit: Flickr, Mindaugas Danys

Because that screaming child pretty much sums up how I feel anytime I hear someone discrediting any reading-of any genre, format, or suggested age and level. 

Reading is supposed to be enjoyable and Summer Reading finally gives kids a chance to have a break from everyone telling them what to read all school year long. I still remember one of my teens telling me how high school pretty much ruined her reading life because she was sick and tired of being told to read at a higher Lexile level and being forced to read classics instead of the YA books she wanted to read. Do we really want to turn out kids into reading haters? They don't get enough choice in school, so let them have choice during Summer. If we want our kids to become readers, we know the best way to get them to read is to let them read what they want. The best way to increase their reading skills and reading levels (which let's be honest, I hate reading levels and think they are a lot of nonsense, but that's a post for another day!) is to let them read. Scholastic's 5th Annual Reading Report shows that "Ninety-one percent of children ages 6–17 say “my favorite books are the ones that I have picked out myself.” (And really, go read the whole thing-it's fantastic!) 

When I give my Summer Reading Spiel to parents and kids, I stress that ANYTHING they read counts. Any format, any genre, reading aloud, reading silently, reading together, reading alone, looking at books for pre-readers, audiobooks, ebooks-ANYTHING! I make a big deal at my school presentations to the kids that I'm not going to tell them what to read, their teachers aren't going to tell them what to read, and that their parents aren't going to tell them what to read. And this year I told them that if they do, that they need to come talk to me, because I will tell them that Summer Reading is all about choice! (I haven't had anyone show up yelling at me yet, but I'm still waiting for that angry parent who is upset because I promised their kid free choice for Summer Reading!) 

Parents seem to get the importance of Summer Reading. Yet they are shocked to discover they can read aloud, listen to audiobooks, or read comic books!

I try to point out that listening is a great way to read for auditory learners, it can help kids who are struggling readers with a longer text, it can help readers who need to follow along with text and read aloud, they are fantastic models for storytelling, and audio can be a way to share a book together as a family. I also love how audiobooks work great for kids who can't sit still and need to move around while reading-audiobooks can provide the best of both worlds-movement and reading. 

I talk about how graphic novels aren't easier just because they have picture, but instead of creating a picture alone in your mind along with the text, readers have to evaluate text and pictures while reading! Graphic novels can also be a way for readers who need more of a visual element to read classics because there are illustrations to help explain the context. 

Those are just a few reasons I love encouraging new formats and new ways of reading. All reading counts and all reading matters. Reading Rockets has a great resource about the benefits of audiobooks for all listeners. And Scholastic and School Library Journal have fantastic resources for using graphic novels and comics. 

We have a PowerPoint that advertises our programs, new books, and other Library info. I'm hoping to take some stats from these various reports and cycle through them on our slideshow to encourage parents to take note that reading in various formats is of course reading!  I may not win every battle, but I'm going to try my hardest. And I will continue to stress to every child and parent that comes in my library that ANYTHING they read counts for Summer Reading. If you want your child to read, let them read what they want-any genre, any format, and a book of their choice-because that is what is going to get them to read. 


  1. Yes! Yes to all of this! The "real" books thing really ruffles my feathers. I really want to have a big-ole sign that says "libraries: all we carry are 'real' books!" Something like that.

    You also made me contemplate the "side challenge" we issue the 1-5 graders to read 8 different types of specified books. Maybe next year we'll leave the types blank and let the kids fill in the books that they read. Hmmm...

    Thank you so much for such a great post!

  2. YES! Having worked on assessments that use readibility measures, I can attest to how arbitrary they are. I ranted once about it here: Toward the end, there is a link to a study that concludes making our children read at their Lexile level over summer for the heck of it has zero to do with their achievement after summer. It's an interesting read, because it's the first of its kind to conclude this; as well as be the first that is not affiliated with MetaMetrics. HMMM. :)

  3. This is great stuff, Sarah! I wish that all kids could have the benefit of your advocacy for choice in summer reading.


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