Take advantage of 2008 summer reading program

With the summer recess from school just a week away, many parents are thinking of ways to keep their children’s minds and bodies active after those first weeks of euphoric freedom erode to boredom. Let me suggest that before you become frazzled, your local library may offer a solution.

For the past six years, the New Jersey State Library has supported the New Jersey Library Association’s statewide summer reading program with a $50,000 grant. This worthwhile initiative has attracted more and more children and teens each year.

In fact, in 2007, over 154,550 children and teens across New Jersey participated in public library summer reading programs, reading nearly one million books. Since its inception, the summer reading program has motivated children to read purely for fun, without the pressure of taking tests or writing book reports, keeping their minds sharp, improving their reading skills and expanding their imaginations.

As state librarian and a former English teacher, encouraging and promoting early literacy is one of my top priorities. I have traveled around the state promoting literacy and reading initiatives, and encouraging both children and adults to get excited about reading. The State Library continues to support this program because it helps local libraries to develop and extend the literacy skills of New Jersey’s young people.

Each year the summer reading program has a theme, which many libraries adopt. This year, young readers will enjoy getting “bugged” as the themes are “Catch the Reading Bug” for children and “Metamorphosis” for teens. Public libraries all over our state will be scheduling activities for children and teens from mid-June through August, not only to entertain them with stories and activities about insects, but also to educate them about the nature and benefits of these small creatures.

Using their attraction to bugs as a springboard, we hope to bring more young people into our libraries, attract new users, promote the services and materials our libraries offer the public, and offer children and teens a valuable social experience through many different activities, such as book discussion groups, crafts or the Monmouth County Library’s Battle of the Bands.

We know that for teens, reading leads to success. It expands their vocabularies, improves writing skills, increases their knowledge and expands their view of their world. Another big dividend is getting a good score on the verbal section of a college admissions test. No other activity builds the vocabulary and comprehension skills needed to do well on those tests as well as reading.

Who would have guessed that so many benefits could come from a summer reading program? Participating libraries will be registering children and teens for their programs in early June. Check to see what your local library is doing. I encourage all parents to look into this great program with their children. It just might result in a “bugging me free” summer and better grades in school next year.
Norma E. Blake
New Jersey State Librarian