September 3, 2014

Summer reading keeps brains busy

By Jessie Tobias
Staff Writer | info@ogemawherald.com
Posted 6/27/12

It’s about a month into summer vacation for most school-age children in Michigan, and that means parents across the state are probably ready for them to go back to school.

I kid. Parents who are still enjoying having their kids home, underfoot, complaining about the heat and demanding snacks and trips to town — they may be ready next week.

Seriously though, if you’ve got kids home on summer break, you’re probably looking for a way to keep them busy — especially when the weather drives them indoors into the air conditioning and sets them on a collision course with your nerves.

I humbly suggest your local library’s summer reading program.

That’s right, books! They’re some of my favorite things, and they have great summertime value, even if your child isn’t the bookwormiest. In fact, the reading program has plenty of things for everyone, even kids who are more hands-on. Activities and presentations, like puppet shows, crafts and more, are offered throughout the summer.

The statewide summer reading program lets kids earn prizes through reading, and all activities and events are free. There’s no reason not to participate, and some libraries even have an adult program so parents don’t get left out.

I’ve got all sorts of experience with the program. I took part every summer when I was a kid. My brother and I got our first library cards in kindergarten, and our mother, father and grandmother were all willing to make trips to the library during summertime (not just because we didn’t have AC and the library did, either).

It was always fun to see what kinds of fun things the library had planned each summer, and to keep track of reading minutes on my way to turning in the completed log. I usually went above and beyond the required minutes every summer (and my parents appreciated my zeal). The whole thing went to my head — getting free stuff for reading, something I would have done anyway! It was great!

I also had a chance to ramp up and oversee the program during my junior and senior years of high school, when I worked after school as a page at the Pinconning Branch Library. It gave me a lot of respect for the work libraries put into the program each summer, and I had fun coming up with new ideas tying into each year’s theme.

When the program kicked off, I signed kids up and doled out coupons and prizes when they brought back their completed reading log. It was really enjoyable to see firsthand how many kids actually take part in the program every year. It’s encouraging, too, considering the whole thing is (in part) a cleverly designed scheme to keep kids learning over the summer.

Since summer reading is all about enjoyment, it lets kids read about whatever topic strikes their fancy. And how devious is that? Kids, reading without seriously disrupting their summertime veg.

The value of summer reading might not be obvious to kids, but reading during the summer keeps them thinking. According to the Michigan Department of Education, reading during the summer helps kids hang on to what they learned during the previous school year.

And it doesn’t matter whether they’re reading a book about trains, the American Revolution, wilderness survival or Justin Bieber. All the while, their brains are humming as the pages turn; and they might just end up learning a thing or two from “fun” reading. (Even the fluffiest fiction is teaching them about grammar and punctuation.)

In short, summer reading programs are worthwhile for kids, and parents too. And again, it’s all free. There are no costs to participate in the program or any of the activities.

...Unless your child does like I did one year, and checks out a bazillion books, then forgets the due dates and keeps them for about a week and a half past due.

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