This post was co-authored by Janise Parker and Tiffany Cannon, Lead Library Media Specialist in a public school district.
A few days ago, my son and I passed by a renowned bookstore, and he asked, “Is that a library?” I explained the similarities and differences between a bookstore and a library, with an emphasis on the low cost and/or free resources that libraries offer to community members.
As I reflect on that conversation, I think about what it means in relation to the “summer slide.” The summer slide is a phrase that typically refers to the fact that K-12 students may lose some of the knowledge gained throughout the school year when they are not engaged in learning activities during the summer months. One of the leading contributors to the summer slide is limited access to and use of helpful resources for school-age youth. Returning to the pivotal role local librarians play in the community, using the resources they offer to members in their respective communities is one approach to combatting the summer slide.
Indeed, my mom used to take my sister and me on Saturday trips to the local library partially due to its low-cost nature. I remember experiencing feelings of awe and wonder as I picked books, audio tapes, etc. related to my interests, likes, and curiosities (it was my first introduction to the movie Roots!). This is a tradition my sister continues to carry on with her family, and she is intentional about helping her children pick out books that affirm their values, interests, and identities as brilliant Black girls. In fact, considering the recent bans pertaining to books about the racist history of the US and the richness of Black culture (as well as other marginalized groups) in US schools, the library can be used as a tool to offset these discriminatory actions so that our children do not suffer. Knowledge is power!
My dear colleague/friend is one of the few Black librarians in the US, so I have invited her to share a few tips for how families can take advantage of the resources offered by public libraries and engage in sustained summer reading through other related efforts. The goal, then, is to equip youth and families with tools that can contribute to their ongoing growth and cultural wealth.
Tiffany Cannon, Lead Library Media Specialist
Source: Tiffany Cannon, used with permission
5 Tips for Summer Reading
1. Make a schedule for taking your children to the library over the summer.
Creating a schedule of library visits can give children something fun and exciting to look forward to throughout the summer. Elementary-aged children usually love visiting their school library during the school year and the same can be said for older children when books captivate their interests and likes. Couple the trip with an ice cream day and that should seal the deal! If transportation is an issue, local libraries may provide book mobiles and community outreach programs for all ages.
2. Grab a book and read along with your children outside.
It is always great for kids to see caregivers reading with them. Take a few minutes out of your summer fun to read your own book, while your children are reading their books. Set a good example by showing them how awesome reading can be for the whole family.
3. Audiobooks can be a fun way for the family to enjoy a story together.
There are some awesome websites that will allow you to listen to free books. Amazon, Audible, SORA, etc. are great resources for audiobooks as well; and you can ask your public librarian about ways to check out their audiobook collection.
4. Provide a method for tracking summer reading.
Many public libraries have summer reading programs that include giving youth prizes after they read a certain number of books. As a caregiver, consider tracking the books your child reads by having them write them down and/or post the log on the wall when they finish a new title. You can also plan to have an ice cream day or pizza party for the family when your child reaches a certain number of books by the end of the summer!
5. Take a book “trip.”
Reading books about historical places or fictional stories about places nearby or near vacation areas can help students connect reading to real life; This creates dynamic conversations, experiences, and unique opportunities for important discussions.
Concluding Thoughts: Supporting Black Children
With the summer months upon us, it is important to note that marginalized students from low-income backgrounds are more likely to experience the “summer slide” compared to their middle-class peers. Black families may be particularly committed to eradicating the summer slide, irrespective of class differences, due to oppressive school structures that prevent Black students from realizing their full potential (Lynch, 2002). Encouraging Black children to read is important for their educational lives and futures as leaders and community members. Here are a few sites that promote Black history books and books for children and teens of color: