Op-Ed

Summer Reading Superstars return to school ready to learn

Summer Reading Superstars Catherine and Myles Schumacher, with Bellingham Public Library staff member Bernice Chang, celebrate their summer reading accomplishments by displaying a yard sign. These popular signs can be seen all over Bellingham.
Summer Reading Superstars Catherine and Myles Schumacher, with Bellingham Public Library staff member Bernice Chang, celebrate their summer reading accomplishments by displaying a yard sign. These popular signs can be seen all over Bellingham. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

School’s back in session, and thousands of young readers returned to the classroom ready to learn, thanks to local library summer reading programs.

Summer reading programs challenge elementary students, tweens and teens to keep their brains active and engaged by reading or listening to books over the summer. About 2,000 students finished summer reading programs this year through the Bellingham Public Library, earning the “Summer Reading Superstar” title.

Even the youngest children (and parents) can be Summer Reading Superstars by completing activities designed to get families talking, singing, reading, writing and playing together, building a solid foundation for reading in the future.

Studies demonstrate that the achievement gap between children of differing economic circumstances can be traced back to differences in summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years.

Tracking their reading and completing reading challenges earns participants fun prizes and free books donated by local businesses and organizations. Finishers also earn Summer Reading Superstar yard and window signs, which pop up all over Bellingham during the summer, and are a very popular way for students to let their neighbors know how proud they are of their reading achievements. Special events and activities all summer long make summer reading extra fun.

Why is summer reading important?

These programs are fun, and serve a vital purpose as well: They help keep students’ reading skills sharp over the summer. Reading during the summer is incredibly important for students and their academic achievement. Here are a few of the many reasons why:

Children who don’t read during the summer experience learning loss. Kids don’t just feel like they’ve forgotten some of what they’ve learned – studies show they actually do forget, and the effect is cumulative. Students who lose reading skills over the summer can be as much as two years behind their classmates by the end of sixth grade.

Studies demonstrate that the achievement gap between children of differing economic circumstances can be traced back to differences in summer learning opportunities during the elementary school years.

Other studies indicate that ensuring easy and continuous access to self-selected books for summer reading is a good strategy for addressing summer reading set-back and the achievement gap that exists between students from more and less economically advantaged families.

Summer reading programs encourage kids to read whatever they want, which helps instill a love of reading for recreation. Studies show that kids who read for fun often outperform those who don’t in school.

Public library summer reading programs and all their related activities are free of charge, offering safe, accessible, engaging educational opportunities for youths of all ages throughout the summer.

Community support for summer reading

We are grateful to the many community partners who make Bellingham Public Library summer reading programs possible. Special thanks to the Friends of the Bellingham Public Library, who provide much of the funding needed to host our summer reading programs. The Friends of the Bellingham Public Library is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization whose mission is to support and advocate for our library.

In addition to that group, 20 local businesses and organizations supported summer reading programs this year by donating prizes, coupons for free activities and more. Special thanks to them as well: Arne Hanna Aquatic Center, The Bagelry, Boomer’s Drive-In, Colophon Café, Copy Source, CreativiTea Pottery Studio, Great Harvest Bread Co., Mallard Ice Cream, Menchie’s, Mindport Exhibits, Mount Bakery, Perch & Play, Pure Bliss Desserts, Robeks, Rocket Donuts, Shirlee Bird Café, TCBY, Woods Coffee, Whatcom Transportation Authority, and Yeager’s Toyland.

Bellingham Public Library’s summer reading program is one of dozens and dozens of popular enrichment programs sponsored by the library year-around for our community’s youth. Summer reading and other similar programs also are available through the Whatcom County Library System. Learn more by visiting bellinghampubliclibrary.org or wcls.org.

Pamela Nyberg Kiesner is director of Bellingham Public Library and chair of the Washington Library Association.

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