Raising Readers: Summer Reading Program
Jul 7, 2014
If the 100-degree temps didn't give it away, it's the peak of summer right now. And while we love swimming, biking, and playing outside, sometimes the activity that's most tempting is retreating into the air-conditioned house with a good book.
One of the first things my boys and I did this summer was sign up for our local summer reading programs. Did you sign up your kids, too? Reading is always fun (of course!), but reading for prizes? Even better.
In this post, I want to share some details from our current experience and also hear about how the summer reading program goes down in your neck of the woods.
But first . . .
. . . can I tell you about the summer reading program when I was a little girl?
Because really, it was awesome.
I've talked about my small hometown library before. I have many fond memories of that little brick building, but perhaps none so fond as those surrounding the summer reading program. Here's how it worked:
On the first possible day, my siblings and I biked over to get signed up. Our library only had one librarian, Jan, and she gave us our reading logs. For every two hours of reading we did, we got one prize. That's it. Simple, right? So if we read four hours in one day (which we often did), that translated to two prizes.
Prizes consisted of things like candy bars, juice boxes, Little Debbies, cans of soda, little plastic toys, bookmarks, etc. Jan displayed all the prizes on the shelves by her desk. We could choose whatever we wanted. We usually cashed in on our prizes once a week, and let me tell you, we made bank. We came home loaded with a year's supply of sugar--much to my mom's dismay.
After every 20 hours, we got a free book. It was not unusual to earn three or four, sometimes even five, books in one summer. (I remember the summer after the 1998 Winter Olympics, Jan had a book about Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan. At the time, I was quite the figure skating junkie, and I couldn't wait to read my first twenty hours and claim that book for my own.)
All summer, we carried around our timers so we could keep track (to the exact minute) of all the time we accumulated. We recorded our time in my mom's planner and then added it all up at the end of the week so she could sign off the appropriate number of lines on our reading logs.
My sons' experiences with the summer reading program are very different from my own. It's still fun for them, no question, but they are not motivated to read a lot, just consistently.
We signed up for two programs since we live in an area with two different library systems. At one library, the boys have to read 20 minutes each day. At the end of seven days, they get a designated prize (for example, the first prize this year was a little prism spy glass).
At our other library, they're also supposed to do a certain amount of reading each day (the parents and child can decide on an appropriate amount). There's one prize for each month, and they can pick it up at any time during the month (in other words, they don't have to reach a certain place on their chart in order to claim their monthly prize, as long as it's all filled in by August).
As you can imagine, for kids who are already consistently reading every day, this does little to motivate them. They can just do what they've always done with the added bonus of a little prize.
At the beginning of the summer, Aaron was all gung ho about reading. He read his first 20 minutes, colored in the first little bottle on his chart and then exclaimed, "I'm going to read some more!" I had to tell him that that was great but that he wouldn't be able to color in another little bottle until the next day, even if he read another 20 or 40 or 60 minutes. "Oh," he said, deflated, "I guess I'll go outside instead."
Let me be perfectly clear: I am not criticizing our summer reading programs at all. They have a limited budget with thousands of kids participating. Of course they have to have some limits and boundaries. (I don't know how many participated in my little town when I was a kid, but I'm guessing it was only a couple hundred). Summer reading programs are great for reluctant and avid readers alike, which is why I'm talking about it as part of my Raising Readers series. I just wish there was a way to encourage the already well-established readers to read more.
Which is why I'm now turning this discussion to you. Tell me, how does the summer reading program work in your area? Our libraries both participate in the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), which I'm sure many of your libraries also do. But even with the common theme, every library utilizes it in a different way and uses different prizes and incentives. How does your library do it? Or do any of you scrap the library's program and do your own at home? Please share!
(For more Raising Readers posts, click here.)