February 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Evolution of Summer Reading | Editorial

While many think of summer as a time to kick back, public librarians see it as a time to pick up the pace. The iconic “summer reading” has long been a programming staple intended to maintain the connection between kids and books while school’s out. After this summer, however, people may never think of it the same way again, with the advent of “summer learning,” this month’s cover subject.

Fueled by reading lists and prizes, summer reading has changed lives and succeeded in being an essential bridge between one school year and the next, especially for disadvantaged kids. It’s also been roundly critiqued for presenting reading as a task or a contest, rather than a pleasurable practice, and the quality of the lists has been a source of ongoing concern. But where summer reading works well, it has effectively placed the library in the life of a student’s learning—in the richest sense—and is increasingly understood as critical to helping kids retain or even gain skills during the gap in school time. Efforts to stop the dreaded summer slide are evolving, with libraries front and center. Combine those goals with the emergence of hands-on STEM-based programming, and you’ve met summer learning.

1603_AvgBkPrices-TotalchartSummer learning reframes the library as a place to experience and learn, expanding offerings to get kids engaged, and it’s hands-on and high-touch. As Linda Jacobson describes in “Endless Summer Learning, this shift in programming anticipates how kids want to learn, incorporating STEM-related activities and building project tie-ins to books. Yes, books. They are still alive and well in summer learning, both formally and informally.

The opportunity is to foster an even deeper touchstone with kids as they explore the world around them, with libraries central in the life cycle of a child’s discovery. Books get incorporated more actively, when they fit, and as complements when they don’t—engaging kids in doing cool stuff, learning, and reading along the way.


Based on figures supplied by Baker & Taylor, the table shows average list prices for books sold during the time frames listed. See the expanded version for separate calculations for the school and public library markets.


Rebecca T. Miller

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This article was published in School Library Journal's March 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (rmiller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.