The Lingering Joys of Summer

Adult Summer Reading Program

August is over, Labor Day is past, and kids are back at school – there’s no denying it, summer is over. But many of the pleasures of summer linger, like summer reading, and I am not yet ready to let them go!

Last year I waxed nostalgic about summer reading when I was a kid, and lamented (and yes, vented) over schools’ required reading lists. I also celebrated some of the cool things libraries do to help make reading fun instead.

This year, libraries brought fresh fun to summer reading, for kids and adults alike. The theme was “A Universe of Stories,” and a bit of research revealed it spans many states through the Collaborative Summer Library Program . Their mission: “librarians sharing ideas, expertise, and costs to produce a high-quality summer reading program for children, teens, and adults.”

What a great idea. My local library took part. For the younger kids, there was the “Patch Power” quest.

Kids' Patch Summer Reading Program

Kids kept track of when they read, great library programs they took part in, and fun, creative things they did at home. All of it added up to earning patches. Here are two of many choices.

Kids' Summer Reading Badges

(I have to admit, my inner kid is kind of envious of those patches, especially the Epic Wizard…)

They had a separate program for young adults.

Teen Summer Reading Program

Teens kept track on a game board of reading, listening to music, taking part in cool library programs, and other fun things. They could go to an ice cream party, a potato chip taste-off, or an afternoon movie; they could also try out yoga, make crafts, or make cards for wounded veterans. A really excellent array of things to participate in.

Teen Summer Reading Gameboard

I took part in the adult program. Lots of cool things to do and try, and there are stickers for achieving a set of things.

Adult Summer Reading Checklist

(Okay, my inner kid is unexpectedly strong: I wanted one of those stickers!)

By taking part, adults earned raffle tickets for gift certificates to things like stores, sporting events, local museums and public gardens, and theater tickets. I may not have earned one of the stickers, but the real joy was in expanding my horizons and trying some things I might not have otherwise. (And of course, reading some excellent books.)

Libraries weren’t the only ones finding ways to encourage reading. Bookstores big and small took part. Wellington Square Bookshop is a gem of a bookstore to stumble upon and worth traveling a distance to return to.

Wellington Square Bookshop Logo

They had a special offer to help kids get the books they needed and wanted for summer reading. And to encourage reading all year long, they have book clubs and storytimes.

Barnes & Noble  had a summer reading program, too. Up through August 31st, kids could keep track of any eight books they read in a journal and what their favorite parts were.

Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Journal

Then they could choose a free book from a nice selection B&N provided.

Even banks got into the program!

Bank Summer Reading Offer

So summer and these neat programs are over. But the joy of reading goes on. I confess, I am still reading one of my favorite summer books! When I’m done, I hope to post a review of it on Goodreads. Stay tuned.

Happy Reading to All!

Summer Reading

Summer is almost over, which makes me a bit wistful and nostalgic. When I was a kid, one of my favorite summer activities was going to the library with my mom. She would take me to the kids’ section and go to the adjacent adult section (those were different times; I could never recommend such a thing now). I loved going through the shelves and taking down all the books I wanted to check out. By the time my mom came to get me, I needed her help to get them all to the checkout desk! I devoured them at home, and was ready to check out more by the time they were due.

 

Old Favorite, Secondhand from Library

In other words, I LOVED summer reading.

BUT – if my school had required me to read specified books over the summer, I would have HATED it. I would have resented that chore and put it off until the last possible moment. And then I would’ve approached the required readings with such a chip on my shoulder, I might not even have enjoyed books which otherwise I would have loved, if I had just been given the choice to read them.

If this is true of me, an avid booklover, what must it be like for kids who don’t love to read, and for those who struggle with the process?

I do understand why so many schools put a great deal of emphasis on reading over the summer: to keep and build reading skills, and keep kids’ minds active. I entirely respect that. But is forcing kids to read really the way to do that?

When I worked as a bookseller, every spring the dreaded reading lists would come in. And I would be filled with sympathy for the kids. For one thing, the lists were patently unfair. Some kids got to read popular novels by the likes of John Grisham or Stephen King, while other kids had to read things like the nonfiction book First They Killed My Father. I have absolutely no doubt that the latter is worthwhile to read, but in that case, why not have the kids read it during school when they could discuss it, and then help them process the difficult material?

Many kids had long and specific lists they had to read over the summer. Heavens to Murgatroyd, there was required reading for kindergartners! Again I ask, is forcing a kid to read the way to nurture a life-long love of reading? I have to think the answer is NO.

In the words of Mark Twain, “Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and… play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” Why make such onerous work out of something that could be a joy?

Why not do something like libraries around the country are doing? My local library system hosts Summer Reading for kids of all ages and adults. It varies from library to library and between age groups, but what I’ve seen are things like game boards for the younger kids and bingo cards for the older students and adults.

Reading for Fun

You get to fill in a spot when you finish a book or do other fun things – like go to a library program, write a book review, or design a book cover.

Then you get raffle tickets for gift baskets of cool things, like movie candy with vouchers for free DVD rentals, and gift cards for everything from grocery stores (for adults) to concerts, plays, and music lessons. And for students, books read must be age- and reading-level appropriate. The library offers lists for reading suggestions, for example from the YA Library Services Association and Teen Reads. Note that they emphasize to the kids “a book YOU want to read.” They also encourage kids to ask the Youth librarians for help. And the teens get a pizza party at the end of the summer. How cool is that!

Reading by Choice

I tell you what: I took part in the adult program, and it was great fun!

Libraries absolutely do rock!

Reading Fun for Adults

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