How I miss summer reading. Not the school-assigned sort, but the long, lazy, indulgent days of a great book read for hour upon uninterrupted hour. When I was a kid – before I had kids – I organized my life around getting to the beach (or lake, river or pool) with a fabulous big book and reading to my heart’s content. When I couldn’t make it to the beach, any sunny spot would do. Books are better in the great outdoors, and the great outdoors are better in the summertime. I still crave my al fresco reading binges, though now that my own kids are on the scene, interruptions abound, and at the beach or poolside, I just can’t quite focus on a book with necessary ferocity because my mama instinct forces me to look up every minute or so to make sure that the kids are staying put and, by not drowning, staying alive.
I’ll grudgingly acknowledge that summer time isn’t reading time for everyone, because not everyone is a passionate reader. My own kids are a mixed bag, ranging from obsessive reader to occasional reader, and I’ve made my peace with the sporadic habits of the occasional reader in our midst. However, for the occasional or even reluctant reader – perhaps especially for that sort – summer is a wonderful time to read. Summer allows time for kids to find and connect to books with which they can establish their own relationships with books of (nearly) whatever topic of (pretty much) their own choosing. For reluctant readers, it’s about quality, not quantity. I’m not a fan of reading contests in which whoever sprints through the most books wins. I’d much rather see a kid read one or two books with care and attention.
Whether the young people in your lives read reluctantly, voraciously or otherwise, we can help by connecting them to great books. Locally, the Rhode Island Children’s Book Award (RICBA) is a great resource. RICBA is a joint project of the Rhode Island State Council of the International Reading Association, the Rhode Island Library Association and the Rhode Island Educational Media Association. The RICBA blog, located at ricbablog.blogspot.com, lists all of the current nominees, offering a short synopsis and information about the upcoming opportunity for kids to vote at school or a public library for their favorite book (2014’s RICBA winner was Wonder, by R.J. Palacio).
Speaking of public libraries: both the books on the shelves and the helpful human librarians who look after them are wonderful sources for good books. The Providence Community Libraries’ Summer Reading Kickoff is on June 26, 2pm at Rochambeau Library and 4pm at Fox Point Library.
And, of course, you can go back to the internet to find more books that your kids may love. Various online book-sellers and recommendations engines are useful resources that help you find titles that your kids may like. However, please try to avoid the temptation to click and buy print copies online. If your kid uses an e-reader, then you’re off the hook. But if not, please consider our local sources for buying or borrowing. We are fortunate to have several independent bookstores and public libraries in our neighborhood, and we don’t want to lose them. As a former Amazon addict, I’ve had to fight my own battle, but out of allegiance to preserving the experience of perusing the shelves to find just the right book for the next generation, I now buy nearly all of my print books in the 02906 zip code. You can – and should – too.
For some of us, books aren’t always reading’s sine qua non. I have a kid who is passionate about sports journalism, both online and print. Sports Illustrated gets a weekly workout, as do the Providence Journal’s sports section and ESPN’s website. While most reading experts maintain that there’s a place in all of our lives for long-form fiction, the critical thing is that our kids read something, sometimes anything.
Of course, for those of us for whom books are akin to oxygen, that sometimes means everything. If so, you and your kids probably have too many books on your shelves. Share the wealth! Donate well-loved, lightly-used books. Local nonprofit Books Are Wings partners with various local companies and social service agencies to collect such books for distribution to kids in need. Visit booksarewings.org to find out how to connect all of the kids in our community with books that they’ll love.
And look for me at the beach! I’ll be the one with the book.