Library DrawingThe CONNector

APRIL 2000Volume 2 Number 2

The Season of Summer Reading Planning

Linda Williams, Children's Services Librarian

We are well into the season where public libraries are hard at work on their plans for summer reading programs (SRPs). Long a major library service for children (Caroline Hewins mentioned in the 1/00 issue of The CONNector, was one of the first to bring SRPs to libraries in the early 1900s), the significance of their contribution to reading and summer retention of skills is now getting some recognition.

The value of library SRPs to children has been shown by studies on children's summer reading. We now know that participation in SRPs can result in increased vocabulary (where non-participating counterparts show a decrease) and increased comprehension (where non-participating counterparts show a decrease). This is easily understood when it is considered that anything one does well requires practice. Library SRPs work on the motivational aspect of reading by giving different forms of positive reinforcement for children practicing their reading. Schools play a large role in promoting library SRPs to children. In at least one Connecticut town, following a summer where the library program was not promoted, reading scores did not increase the way the school expected. The following spring, that school was the first to invite library staff in to promote the library SRP.

While some states design statewide SRPs that libraries can adapt to their particular needs, Connecticut libraries generally choose one of two methods for SRP planning. Regional groups work together to produce regional programs, or individual libraries design programs that fit their particular communities. The State Library role has been to provide planning materials such as LSTA funded statewide SRPs (Willimantic Library Service Center) and supplemental theme materials ( Middletown and Willimantic Library Service Centers).

Children's library professionals know the importance of the role of SRPs and hope for further future support through research.

"Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education; they grow there, firm as weeds among the stones."

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

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