By Laura Antolin, Children’s Outreach Librarian
It is no secret that summer reading slows or stops the academic slide experienced by most children over the break – a slide more pronounced with children from lower-income families. But summer reading also helps children make actual gains – in reading, lifelong learning, and creativity, reinforcing curiosity and imagination. In other words, summer reading programs like the Evanston Public Library’s help strengthen literacy beyond a traditional definition.
Summer reading loss accounts for about 80 percent of the reading achievement gap. The 2010 study conducted by Dominican University is the classic set of data supporting libraries’ summer reading programs. The study showed students who participated in summer reading programs both scored higher and made gains the following autumn in reading achievement tests, a traditional measure of literacy.
But those gains don’t need to stop with the traditional definition of literacy. A recent New York Times editorial by University of Virginia professor Daniel Willingham, author of The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads, highlighted the connection between children’s reading literacy and their literacy of the world around them, be it about sports or other countries or any other experience that helps to fill in information gaps. At the Evanston Public Library, we engage children and their families to build and develop literacy skills that open the doors to knowledge to navigate the world.
Literacy goes beyond reading to writing, research, understanding technology, critical thinking, STEM, nurturing creativity, and problem solving.
For the last decade, the research has shown that summer reading that provides access to lots of books and choice has the most impact. “Summer Learning should focus on pleasure seeking and leisure reading rather than reading skill development,” – just the kind of reading that the library’s broad collection is best positioned to provide. Our children’s librarians have the depth of knowledge to help children discover new books and authors, expand their horizons and keep them reading.
The theme for this year’s Summer Reading Program at Evanston Public Library is “Reading Takes You Everywhere” – a theme that underscores both the choice to read and its benefits. As an all-ages program, adults can be reading role models for children of all ages. There are many reasons for your child to spend time at the library. Reading is a great foundation for exploration and one of the best ways for a child to spend the summer and prepare for the school year!
Laura Antolin has been at the Evanston Public Library since 2002 and has held the title of Children’s Outreach Librarian since 2014. She earned a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing/English from Northwestern University in 1979 and a Master’s in Library Science from the University of Chicago in 1985. The Library was founded in 1873 and serves a highly diverse and evolving community. More than 1,600 people use its resources and services every day.