Before the days of television, computers, smartphones and tablets, people had to be creative when it came to finding sources of entertainment. They made music; they sang; and they read.
Flash forward to today and we not only have televisions in our homes, but we’ve got them on our multiple mobile devices and even in our cars. Our brains are very rarely unplugged.
This summer, make it your goal to get hooked on reading. Over 30 million Americans can’t read beyond a fifth-grade level. Research shows that those who read more have better jobs, are more productive, live healthier lives and are better able to educate their own children.
It All Begins With The Little Ones
When do we become “readers?” Roseanne Russo, branch services division manager of the Marion County Public Library, points out that we don’t merely “spring forth as readers.” Rather, our environment plays a key role in whether we reach for the portable DVD player or summertime best seller, and it all begins before we can even form our first words.
“When you look at the development of the brain, between the ages of 0 and 2 is when the most formation takes place,” says Diane Johnson, children’s services division manager of the Marion County Public Library. She notes that the more language children are exposed to during these crucial years, the better vocabulary development they will experience, leading to an improved chance of academic success over the years.
Letting Them Read On Their Own
When kids enter school and can begin to read on their own, a whole new world of exploration and imagination opens up.
“Early childhood reading is hugely important,” says Roseanne, explaining that the library system is highly dedicated to reading during these formative years, incorporating such programs as the Ready to Read Van, Pre-School Club, Super Saturdays, Dig into Reading and many more.
At a young age, children are excited about reading, and this is a key time to instill the habits that they will utilize throughout their school years. In fact, research shows that on a national level, while reading scores for high school kids have declined, they have shown improvement among 9 year olds.
Tackling The Tweens and Teens
Once middle and high school begins and the onslaught of clubs, homework, sports and social time bombards students left and right, it’s hard to inspire students to read anything more than what is absolutely required. In fact, less than one-third of 13 year olds read daily.
“It can be difficult to get the tweens and teens to continue reading, but it’s so important for imagination and vocabulary development,” explains Karen Jensen, the library’s community liaison.
According to the National Endowment for the Arts, nearly two-thirds of employers rank reading comprehension as “very important” for high school graduates, yet 38 percent rank most high school graduates as “deficient” in reading skills.
Reading Through The Decades
“Our lives change, we get new jobs, we raise kids, our kids move out, we retire,” says Roseanne, explaining that interest in reading is cyclical. When time allows, you may fly through a book in a matter of days, while at other times, you may not even remember the title of the last book you read.
But just because high SAT scores are no longer a concern doesn’t mean reading can’t positively affect your life. Research shows that readers are more likely to engage in positive civic and individual activities that will enrich their lives, such as volunteering, exercising and attending cultural events.
10 Books Every Child Should Hear Before Kindergarten
Each Peach Pear Plum
Where’s My Teddy?
Happy Birthday Moon
Bear in a Square
The Story of Babar
Jump Frog Jump
How I Became a Pirate
Love You Forever
Little Red Hen
Sizzling summer selections for elementary students
Summer According to Humphrey, by Betty G. Birney
The Lemonade War, by Jacqueline Davies
Runaway Ralph, by Beverly Cleary
Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo
Top Summer picks for tweens
The Lightening Thief, by Rick Riordan
The Ghost’s Grave, by Peg Kehret
Holes, by Louis Sachar
A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck
Young adult summer must-reads
City of Ashes (Series), by Cassandra Claire
Age of Miracles, by Karen Thompson Walker
The Moon and More, by Sarah Dessen
Lunar Chronicles, by Marissa Meyer
Summer beach reads
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, by Denise Kiernan
The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry, by Kathleen Flinn
WWW: Wake, by Robert J. Sawyer
N0S4A2, by Joe Hill
The YA Craze
The “Young Adult” genre has become widely popular (even among adult readers!) over the past decade with such series as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. The library system accommodates these readers with Y.A.L.L.A., or the Young Adult Leading Library Awareness. Here, young readers can connect with their peers and select the books they want to read. The library also hosts multiple tween- and teen-friendly programs, including the upcoming county-wide geocaching extravaganza.
Reading For A New Generation
Interested in going “e”? The Marion County Library now holds over 600 titles you can check out digitally with the click of a button. There are also over 20,000 titles available for download, a full selection of digital magazines, music and more.
The Marion County Public Library hosts a variety of free programs throughout the summer for readers (and future readers) of all ages. Age-specific story times, reading-related hands-on activities, reading groups and much more are available at each branch. For a complete list, visit library.marioncountyfl.org.