Now that summer has arrived, and the textbooks are tucked away, how do parents make sure their children’s minds stay active over vacation? Every summer, the Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) offers a summer reading program for children ages preschool-12th grade. “Dig into Reading,” the 2013 theme, began on June 18. The library has divided readers into five age groups. Each age group is designated a suggested reading list, and a required number of books to read by Aug. 31. Children from birth to grade six read fifteen books, and children in grades seven-12 read eight books. If the child completes their log of books, they receive a coupon book prize containing free and discounted offers from local businesses. Having prizes encourages children to complete the program, and work towards a specific goal. As her son filled out his name on the sign-up sheet, Sara Brandland, a Reston parent, said, “It’s nice to have incentives so kids get through the program.”
Although there are thousands of books to choose from in the library, many like to refer to the suggested reading lists the library provides for the program. Laura Raymond, a FCPL librarian of 12 years, and Herndon Fortnightly Library branch manager of one year states, “Books on school reading lists and library formed lists go right away. We tried to include series books and categories of books this year on the list, rather than exact titles, to allow for availability.” Suggested reading lists can be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/library/srp.
If required books for summer reading have always been a struggle for children, there are not specific books each child must read in order to complete the program. Ted Kavich, FCPL Program and Educational Services manager, says, “[The Summer Reading Program] is very important, as it’s been shown that kids that don’t read over the summer lose valuable skills such as reading comprehension and vocabulary that they’ll need when school starts. Reading over the summer gets them ready to tackle the higher grade’s assignments in the fall.” The goal of the program is not only to keep the minds of students sharp over the summer, but also to have kids enjoy reading. Kavich said, “They are encouraged to read whatever they most like to read—this is not about assigned reading or homework, we want it to be fun.” If children enjoy what they’re reading because they picked the book themselves, this is good practice for a lifetime of reading for pleasure.
The local libraries have organized a number of free events for children to attend this summer as well, many of which focus on a reading theme to further encourage children to surround themselves with books this summer. Kavich claims, “The Summer Reading Program provides a way for kids and their families to enjoy the summer months by reading books for fun and attending free events at library branches.”