Growing up, summer was always a magical time for me. It wasn’t just the warm, long days, or floating in the river, or ice cream cones; for me, summer was the time I got to read whatever I wanted, as much as I wanted. I spent long days lounging on our porch, reading pretty much anything I could get my hands on. It was a time to catch up on whatever I wanted to read, not worrying about assigned books or book reports or tests. I could read at my own pace and often tried more challenging adult books. Reading was pretty much my favorite thing to do and, in the summer, I could do it a lot.

While your child’s school may have some summer reading to do, it’s also important to let them pick out books they want to read. And it’s best not to discourage their choices, even if they’re not what you consider high literature. Graphic novels and comics are great summer-time reading, and it’s okay to revisit books they’ve already read. They’ll enjoy reading more if they get to choose the materials, and they’ll develop fond memories of reading outdoors, in a hammock, in a treehouse, upside down — wherever!

Summer reading isn’t just fun; it’s essential. Kids who don’t read in the summertime lose months of the valuable literacy skills they’ve developed in the previous school year. This is especially true for low-income kids, who tend to lack access to a wide range of age-appropriate books in the summer. Particularly this past year, low-income kids have been at high risk of having low literacy skills, a troubling trend. Kids with low literacy skills are more likely to struggle in school and drop out. Encouraging reading and writing often is one way you can ensure your child’s future success in school and beyond. And the best way to do that is to let them choose their own books. According to a Scholastic Reading Report, 88 percent of children surveyed said they’re more likely to finish a book if they picked it out themselves, and 89 percent said their favorite books are the ones they chose. Letting kids pick out their own books to read encourages them to enjoy reading and do it more often, which leads to stronger literacy skills.

While most libraries are currently closed for browsing, many are offering convenient curbside book pick-up. Try to make a regular trip to the library part of your routine. Little Free Libraries, available in many neighborhoods, are also a great resource. Keene Public Library will be offering grab-and-go kits this summer, in addition to virtual programs and prizes for young readers.

The Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF) ensures low-income, at-risk, and rural kids, ages twelve and under, in New Hampshire and Vermont have access to engaging literacy programming and new books they get to choose in the summer. CLiF’s Summer Readers program brings New Hampshire and Vermont authors, illustrators, poets, graphic novelists and storytellers to get kids excited about reading and writing in the summer. At each event, there’s a book giveaway where kids get to choose two new, high-quality books for themselves to promote summer reading. Last summer, we were able to do some outdoor storytelling presentations and book giveaways, in addition to virtual storytelling and curbside book pick-up.

Julie Perrin, Director of the Jaffrey Public Library, said, “Our Summer Readers grant provided our one and only in-person, but socially distanced outdoor event. As such, Storytelling day at the library was the place to be this summer and was extra special. Families were so grateful to choose books for their home libraries at a time when access to books in the future is an unknown. We distributed hundreds of books at the event and later at curbside pickup so that coming to the library for “two books to keep” was a celebratory finale for a summer of learning. Knowing we have CLiF as a dedicated partner in literacy is a comfort to us all.”

Last summer, despite the pandemic, CLiF distributed 23,098 books to low-income, at-risk, and rural kids all over New Hampshire and Vermont. Organizations serving low-income kids during the summer are encouraged to apply for a Summer Readers grant at www.clifonline.org by June 1, 2021.

Happy summer reading!

Erika Nichols-Frazer is a writer, editor, and the Communications Manager at the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF). She is the editor of the anthology "A Tether to This World: Stories & Poems of Recovery." Learn more about CLiF at www.clifonline.org.