Reading is important for children

Published 9:25 am Friday, June 20, 2014

by Ann Bryant

To children, the summer slide means a trip to Water Country or the beach. To teachers, the “summer slide” is the noted decrease in reading skills after a vacation without books.

University of Tennessee, Knoxville, has completed a 3-year study showing a significantly higher level of reading achievement in students who had books for summer reading at home. Children who do not read at home during the summer can lose 2-3 months of reading skills. Every 3 years or so, these kids will fall a whole year behind the kids who do read over the summer.

What can you do? Get books in the hands of your kids. If you are reading this column in time, bring your kids to the Children’s Book Give-Away/Book Swap today (June 20) from 10 a.m. to noon at the library in either Courtland or Franklin or the Luter Family YMCA in Smithfield. It’s a free, fun time for all children. Every child will get at least one free book (Sponsored by Blackwater Regional Library, Franklin-Southampton Area United Way, Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater.)

If you are not able to make it, there are many other ways to get free or inexpensive books. Go to the library – get a library card and check-out books. Watch for the library used book sales. Check the libraries for their summer reading programs – free, fun and interesting! Go to the ReStore in Franklin. They have many children’s books for one dollar or less. Shop yard sales. Have a neighborhood, daycare or church children’s book swap. Trade the books already read for fresh books.

Schedule time for reading. Just as you schedule time for swimming lessons, ball games and time with friends, schedule daily time for reading. Parents, your children look to you as role models. Few children learn to love reading on their own. If you read, that will encourage them to do so. Share a book with your pre-schoolers. Any age-appropriate book will do – fiction or non-fiction. Children are naturally curious. Books that teach kids how to do something or give further information about a subject they already know something about are a great way to keep kids reading. Newspapers and magazines are great for building vocabulary. Maya Angelou once said, “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.”

Blackwater Library branches are sponsoring a Summer Reading Program – Paws to Read. Children and teens can sign up for weekly incentives based on the number of books they read. Teens can also sign up for SYNC where they can download two free audio books a week (one a popular young adult title and one corresponding classic) from May 15 through August 14.

One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is a love of reading. Saturday, June 21 has more daylight hours than any other day of the year. Will you take some of that day and every day this summer to encourage your child to read?

ANN W. BRYANT is the executive director of the Franklin-Southampton Area United Way. She can be reached at 569-8929 or at