Each year, practically every public library across the United States runs a summer reading program for children. Age ranges vary, but the typical audience is school age children. The reason is that summer reading programs are generally designed to fight the summer slide–a term used to describe the loss of academic gains by students who do not read over the summer and who do not participate in learning activities such as going to museums. Children who do not read over the summer can lose an average of two months’ of reading skills–and this loss is cumulative. So libraries have stepped in during the summer months to encourage students to keep reading while school is out.
Over the years, however, some libraries have started offering adult summer reading programs, as well. While these programs are typically smaller and receive less attention than the children’s programs, I believe they are valuable for the community. Adult summer programs encourage parents to sign up along with their children and model the practice of daily reading. They send the message that reading is a lifelong habit, something that can be done for pleasure and entertainment, not just something that is done to complete a homework assignment. They let children and teens know that the adults in their lives actually value reading because they do it, too–it’s not just something they force kids to do because “it’s good for them.”
Despite the benefits of incentivizing adults to read and model reading for children and teens, however, many libraries still limit their summer reading programs to younger age ranges. They may, understandably, fear the financial cost of running another large-scale reading program. But most adult programs are not as complicated as the children’s programs and they usually involve far fewer prizes. For instance, while children and teens may have the opportunity to earn a prize for every set amount of hours read, adults may simply go into a raffle for a prize–either a weekly one or one for the end of the summer. These raffle prizes can be donated by local companies, meaning that there does not have to be a large financial cost to offering an adult reading program.
Running adult reading programs shows children and teens that libraries and adults envision reading as a habit for life. Children cannot be convinced that reading is truly valuable if the adults they look up to will not read themselves. Every library should strive to offer the opportunity for adults to model the behavior they want their children to practice. Every library should have an adult summer reading program.
Does your library have an adult summer reading program? Do you participate?