As we head into summer, we’re all being reminded about the importance of summer reading. Children who don’t read during the summer can lose up to three months of reading progress and that loss has a cumulative, long-term effect.
Not all kids have access to books. Many, many kids (WAY too many) live in in homes without books. First Book founder Kyle Zimmer suggests that 42% of American children — 31 million — grow up in families where spending money on books is not an option. A new report from London suggests that one in three children in London doesn’t own a single book.
The answer to access isn’t as easy as “use the library!” While our library system in the U.S. is an incredible resource, libraries face their own budget cuts. In some neighborhoods, this translates into branches with shorter hours or closed altogether, and fewer (and older) books on the shelves of those that are open.
Last summer’s meta-analysis report Children’s Access to Print Materials and Education-Related Outcomes , commissioned by Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), found that access to print materials improves reading performance, helps kids learn the basics, causes children to read more and for longer periods, produces improved attitudes.
There are huge national efforts to provide access to new books for children in need. First Book is a shining example of that, but more can be done, within your neighborhood, and at your school. At our school we’ve put together summer reading bags for the past two years. You can read how we set it up at no cost. They’ve been very successful. Our neighborhood book swap was another great way to get books into the hands of kids; even the kids who didn’t bring a book browsed and brought books home. Even our local drycleaner has gotten into the act. When you walk in the door, there’s a cardboard box of books free for the taking. Leave one, take one, or just take one, it’s a very casual system but it works!
We can increase access to books, and make a difference, just by thinking about creative ways to get books into every child’s hands this summer. Do you have any ideas to share?