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School Libraries Stay Open In Summer, Promote Reading

Susan Notes: In our current climate of skill drill, hats off to educators who try to encourage children's reading by making books available to them.

Stephen Krashen Comments:

I just came across an article in the Dundalk Eagle,
“School libraries stay open in the summer, promote
reading,” July 28, and am writing to congratulate
those elementary schools taking this step. Erika
Cooper quotes the research accurately when she states
that children can “fall behind” in reading over the
summer. The research in this area also strongly
suggests that the reason this happens is that some
children do not have access to books over the summer:
those who live close to public libraries read more
during the summer, and those who read more gain more
in reading over the summer. In other words, it is the
actual pleasure reading that children do that
determines whether their reading improves or declines.

Research also tells us that when children have access
to really interesting, comprehensible reading, they
take advantage of it and read. Keeping school
libraries open during the summer, especially for
children with few other sources of books, is probably
the most powerful step a community can take in helping
children become proficient readers.

I intend to share this article with colleagues
nationally and internationally, in the hope that other
communities will consider taking the same steps.

A handful of local elementary schools are making it
easier for kids to read over the summer.

Bear Creek, Berkshire and Norwood elementary schools
are keeping their doors open one day a week for
students to come in and check out books over the
summer. Logan Elementary ran the program through July.

The countywide program works in part with the
Baltimore County Public Library's Summer Reading
program, which encourages kids to read over the summer
by offering incentives and prizes to those who
complete reading goals mapped out on a game board.

"Research has shown that kids can lose up to two
grades over the summer," said Erika Cooper, the Summer
Reading program coordinator at the North Point Public

The thought of lessons sliding out of children's heads
in the summer sun is no doubt one reason that
Baltimore County decided to begin this program.

"Having libraries open in the summer fosters that
practice of reading," said Della Curtis, coordinator
of the office of library information services for the

The program was optional to schools and relied upon
the summer availability of the library media

Matt Corner, who fills that role at Bear Creek, said
that allowing students to check out books over the
summer can help them meet the goal of the public
library's reading program.

For example, students who can't get transportation to
the public library may still be able to walk, bike or
skate to their schools.

Parents who can provide transportation to the school
may find that there's something there for them, as

"They sit down with the kids and read," Corner said.
"The parents are very supportive, very happy to have
[the program]."

The program "allows a place and time for kids to come
and check out books and materials and interact with
the library media specialists," Curtis said. "The
librarians enjoy being in the library over the summer
and interacting with the kids. Having the schools open
and the library staffed creates a greater access to
the school comunity."

While Corner wants every student to have the
opportunity to read, he said the summer program has
drawn in some kids you might not normally see hanging
out in the school library.

"There's a range of all ability levels and
personalities," he said.

That's especially significant when considering the
vast amount of things that books have to compete with
these days - video games, movies and cell phones, for
a few.

Though only a few local schools participated this
year, others have expressed interest in hosting
similar programs next year. Curtis and Corner, for
two, will be on board.

"I definitely would like to do this again next year,"
Corner said. "Anything helps."

— MIchelle Ruddle
Dundalk Eagle (MD)


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