Last week I mentioned climbing the stairs of the old public library in Ohio so that I could go to story time. When the summers came, I haunted that same library for summer reading club activities. For me, it was all about the joy of reading—well, that, and maybe getting out of doing household chores. I loved it, but I am sure I had no idea how important summer reading was.
Now, of course, library summer reading has been studied, as most programs are these days, for proof of effectiveness and measurement of outcomes. But no librarian is surprised to read what a difference it makes in the lives of children.
In her definitive and classic study, Summer Learning and the Effects of Schooling (Academic Press, 1978), Barbara Heyns followed sixth and seventh graders in the Atlanta public schools through two school years and the intervening summer. Among the findings of her research:
- The number of books read during the summer is consistently related to academic gains.
- Children in every income group who read six or more books over the summer gained more in reading achievement than children who did not.
- The use of the public library during the summer is more predictive of vocabulary gains than attending summer school.
The major factors determining whether a child read over that summer were:
1. Whether the child used the public library;
2. The child’s sex (girls read more than boys but also watched more TV);
3. Socioeconomic status; and
4. The distance from home to a library.
More than any other public institution, including the schools, the public library contributed to the intellectual growth of children during the summer.
If you need to be convinced of the importance of the public library in the lives of children, I invite you to come by and see us during any summer reading program. In the meantime, the pictures here, all taken in our libraries this summer, serve to show that reading is not only fundamental to school success—it’s also just plain good old-fashioned fun!