Editorial: Beating the summer heat: Arizona summer reading provides a cool and productive outlet for children

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By Donna Throckmorton – Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records Library Services Consultant

ARIZONA – The school year is wrapping up and summer is almost here.  As vacation inches closer, many parents are struggling to find productive things for kids to do other than spending hours on their smartphones. One activity that should be on all to-do lists this summer is joining the summer reading program at your local library.

Reading, throughout all seasons and all stages of life, is important. It is indisputable that reading skills are critical for success in school, work, and life in general. In fact, a study from the University College, London, Institute of Education found that children who read for pleasure are likely to do significantly better at school than their peers. The more children read, the better their fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

Additional studies have shown that a child who reads proficiently by the end of third grade is more likely to graduate high school because the end of third grade marks the point when children transition from learning to read to using reading to learn other subjects.

A summer without reading can set students back, with the average student losing 17–34% of the prior year’s learning gains during summer break. Still, according to a report from the White House, reading just five books over the summer can help prevent learning loss.

Arizona’s Summer Reading Program encourages participants to head to their local library and select and read any material of their choice for just 20 minutes every day. For very young or struggling readers, be sure to spread shorter literacy activities throughout the day.

It is recommended that students read books that they choose for themselves; children read more when they can choose materials based on their own interests. The ability to choose gives children autonomy and encourages them to stay committed to their decisions. Even rereading the same books can help build fluency.

Summer reading at participating libraries also includes adult programs. Since children often replicate the behaviors of their parents, parents are encouraged to read more as well. Plus, reading has benefits for adults too. Reading reduces stress, slows the progress of age-related memory loss, and boosts sleep quality.

A great way to encourage reading this summer is to schedule a consistent time to read as a family. Setting up family reading time at the end of the day can help everyone wind down and make bedtime easier.

Summer library programs for all ages provide meaningful, enjoyable experiences available to everyone in the community. And, it is easy to get started: Simply visit your local library and sign up today!

Remember, as Dr. Suess wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

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