I worked for the Free Library of Philadelphia as a children’s librarian for 11 years, and during the latter part of May until mid-June each year, I gained pleasure from visiting neighborhood schools to promote summer reading. Those outreach events were centered on fostering the joy of reading to prevent what is known as summer slide. Summer slide happens when children lose reading and math skills that they learned during the school year because they are not engaging in academics during the summer months. It especially affects children from kindergarten to 4th grade.
According to research, reading every day for at least 20 minutes blocks a wasting away of information. Summer represents a time of fun and play, but when children stop reading, they risk losing at least three months of education and starting the new school year at a disadvantage.
Let us instill in children the importance of reading all year long, particularly during the summer. But we must first understand the magnitude of what reading is and why it is critical that children read.
Reading makes meaning of print. It is a fundamental skill that ripens the imagination, expands understanding, and stimulates intellectual development. The importance of reading is in gaining these benefits: increased vocabulary, proliferated knowledge, the ability to concentrate, critical and analytical skills, better writing skills, and improved memory.
Although the goal is to create enjoyable reading experiences for children, we must take part in making sure that they are making progress as they develop reading habits. According to Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, there are five stages that will help determine where a child should be developmentally as they engage in reading:
Emerging pre-readers: 6 months to 6 years old
Novice readers: 6-7 years old
Decoding readers: 7-9 years old
Fluent–comprehending readers: 9-15 years old
Expert readers: 16 years old and older.
The two primary reasons we read are for learning and for entertainment. During the summer, remember to allow children to relax and enjoy whatever they decide to read. Instilling the joy of reading begins with providing the choice to read what one desires.
Now: On your mark … get set … read!
Listed below are several book reviews, along with new and old titles that I have found to be perennial childhood favorites.
Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes
Grades: pre-K to 3
Just as his enthralling and full-of-mischief friend The Cat in the Hat, Pete the Cat and the Missing Cupcakes by Kimberly & James Dean is also taking young readers by storm with its upbeat rhymes and amusing lessons on character-building.
In the story, Pete and his friend Gus, the platypus, plan a party for their friends. They make 10 cupcakes, then place them on the windowsill. Uh-oh – suddenly, the cupcakes begin to disappear. Pete and Gus begin to look for clues. They ask the squirrel, the alligator, and the turtle. Soon they discover it was Grumpy Frog who had eaten the cupcakes.
The author has written a simple story of suspense alluding to the themes of friendship, dishonesty, and forgiveness and the math concept of counting by 2’s. With Pete the Cat, there are never any dull moments!
What Do You Do With a Problem?
One day, a little boy was minding his own business, not disturbing anything or bothering anyone, when he was confronted with a problem. He didn’t ask for it, and he surely didn’t want it, but, it refused to go away. Hoping it would go away, he tried running and hiding from it. He even tried ignoring it. When he couldn’t shake it, he began to worry. The more he worried, the more persistent the problem became, and it grew bigger and bigger until one day, he decided to face it. Facing his problem, he discovered that “every problem has an opportunity for something good. You just have to look for it.”
What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada, is a self-help text for children ages 4 to 8 years old. With subtlety, it shows children how to handle frustration and disappointment and how to figure things out.
The Hate U Give
This exhilarating novel by Angie Thomas is inspired by racism in America and the #blacklivesmatter movement. Starr Carter, the main character, narrates a riveting tale of events as they relate to today’s youth and their experiences. Starr moves between two worlds – the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy prep school she attends. One evening, without parental consent, Starr and her brother’s half-sister, Kenya, attend a house party. A fight breaks out. She and best friend Khalil scarcely escape the grips of the police. A short while later, stopped by police, the unimaginable happens — Khalil is shot!
Thomas, an emerging author, received the 2015 Walter Dean Myers Grant and rave reviews for The Hate U Give. Though it is targeted for 8th to 11th graders, it can be enjoyed by any mature audience. Thomas gives voice to modern-day resistance, tackling bigotry and injustice.
More books to consider:
Up to 2nd grade
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (original publication 1969), ages 2 -5
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (2003), ages 2-6
You Are My I Love You by Maryann Cusimano Love (2010), ages 3-7
I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont (2012), ages 3-7
Pre-K to 4th grade
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. (1989), ages 4-8
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin & James Dean (2010), ages 4-8
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff (2009), ages 4-8
No, David! by David Shannon (1998), ages 4-8
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce (2012), ages 4-8
Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss (1990), ages 4-8
4th to 7th grade
Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney (2007), ages 9 and up
Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine (begins in 1992), ages 7-11
Frindle by Andrew Clements (1998), ages 8-12
Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (2010), ages 8-13
The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake (2007), ages 12 and up
Pre-teen and up
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (1997-2007), ages 12 and up
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (2014), ages 12-16
Robin Muldor-Engram is a former branch manager and children’s librarian for the Free Library of Philadelphia.