Beat the Heat with Summer Reading @ your library

By on

Around the time that Benjamin Harrison was president of the United States and Yosemite National Park was brand new, summer reading programs started taking hold in libraries as a way for parents and teachers to keep kids reading during their summer vacations. On farms and in city neighborhoods alike, children were able to take a reading tour of Yosemite long before families could climb in their car and head for a vacation in a national park.

Since the 1890s, public libraries nationwide have been devising imaginative themes for their summer reading programs for children, teens, and adults alike. Many libraries use the summer reading themes set by the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a grassroots organization dedicated to creating high-quality summer reading program materials at the lowest cost possible for their public libraries. This year’s themes--“One World, Many Stories” for children, “You Are Here” for teens, and “Novel Destinations” for adults—suggest that a book may still be your best bet for getting to Yosemite this summer.

At the Chicago Public Library this year, the theme is “Book Beats,” designed for young readers up to age 14. Picture book readers and pre-readers who complete 25 pictures books earn a “Very Important Reader” T-shirt. Children who read chapter books earn a T-shirt when they complete 10 chapter books. Weekly book raffles, author visits, performers, and presenters are just some of the activities that are featured throughout this steamy summer in Chicago, a great way to beat the heat curled up with a fun book. Last year, over 50,000 kids and teens participated in the library’s summer reading program, and they read 1,195,480 books and attended more than 3,000 programs.

Summer reading programs encourage families to make reading a lifelong habit. The reluctant readers in your family can be drawn in by the activities that libraries offer. Reading over the summer helps children keep their skills up, and it being summer, these programs can just be good fun and provide an opportunity for family time.

Recommended resources @ your library

Why Public Library Summer Reading Programs Are Important (PDF), from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

Research on the Importance of Summer Library Programs, a more comprehensive look at the topic, along with a bibliography, also from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

McCombs, Jennifer Sloan, Catherine H. Augustine, Heather L. Schwartz, Susan J. Bodilly, Brian McInnis, Dahlia S. Lichter and Amanda Brown Cross. Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children's Learning. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2011. Abstract and free eBook (PDF) version at Also available in print form.

"Prevent Summer Set Back" is a flier for parents that shares information on the benefits of summer reading. Published by the Colorado State Library and is available in both English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF).

Know the Facts and Research in Brief. The National Center for Summer Learning, based at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, offers some pertinent points as well as full text articles and abstracts on these pages.

Highlights of Research on Summer Reading and Effects on Student Achievement (PDF)
The New York Statewide Summer Reading Program created this 4 page bibliography of research sources.

The Role of Public Libraries in Children's Literacy Development: An Evaluation Report (PDF) by Drs. Donna Celano and Susan B. Neuman, Pennsylvania Library Association, 2001 (via the Internet Archive)

Evaluating Summer Reading Programs: Suggested Improvements by Joe Matthews, Public Libraries Online (from July/August 2010 Public Libraries).

Building Effective Programs for Summer Learning. U.S. Department of Education, 2000.  

Please see also the information provided about early literacy for additional research supporting for children's summer reading programs.


For additional ideas on creating quality family time, check out activity ideas from Connect with your kids @ your library.