Why the Library Rules in the Summer

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Credits: Martha Brockenbrough & momshomeroom.msn.com

School achievement test scores sink after summer vacation. How do I know this? It's a little something I learned at the library. Well, not at the library. I was actually sitting in a chair in my living room and I did a quick search of a database, where I found a review of 39 studies that showed kids' brains went a little soft after summer break.

This summer, I plan to let our library's summer reading program come to the rescue of my 5-year-old, who's about to finish kindergarten. She worked really hard to learn to read and comprehend stories, and I don't want her to lose those skills. I also know she'll like the prizes. (In years past, they've offered tickets to our local WNBA team's games.)

We're definitely going to sign up together for the program, which at many libraries is so much more than just a long list of books.

As Liz Burns, a library branch manager in Waretown, New Jersey, explains, kids can take part in book discussions, plays, science programs, story time, arts and crafts sessions, and even watch movies.

This sort of thing keeps their brains active, and as a parent, I get help in figuring out how to fill those long summer days with more than expensive summer camps that require me to be organized enough to apply for them in early spring. (I'm convinced that, before long, summer camp will require application at birth just like preschool.)

But libraries are good for more than just preventing the summer brain drain.

Here are some other little-considered (and not necessarily intellectual) benefits of the library during summer:

It can enable you to spend more quality time with your TV
During TV rerun season, you can catch up on favorite shows by checking out DVDs, or see those cable shows you don't subscribe to but everyone talks about. You can also check out classic TV shows that are now coming out on DVD.

Take part in summer programs on stuff that interests you
I've heard of movie discussion series, and food and history programs. Librarians tell me they're also open to patron requests. Burns said she gets lots of ideas from her customers.

Enjoy the air-conditioning
OK, so this isn't available in some places, like the library Miranda Doyle manages in San Francisco. But as Mark Twain allegedly said, "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco."

Mom's Homeroom columnist Martha Brockenbrough is a former high school teacher whose students have been published in The New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor and elsewhere. She has written three books, one on parenting, one on grammar, and one for children. For nearly a decade, she wrote an educational humor column for the encyclopedia Encarta, and she founded both the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar and National Grammar Day. She is the social media director for readergirlz.org, a teen literary organization that has won a National Book Award for innovation. Martha has taught creative writing to elementary school students and has two daughters in elementary school--who almost always remember to put their homework in their backpacks.