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Dive into a book this summer

Cyanne, 10, reads a book while Kassandra, 8, listens and looks at the pictures. The two are in the summer reading program at the Tsawwassen Library.

Cyanne, 10, reads a book while Kassandra, 8, listens and looks at the pictures. The two are in the summer reading program at the Tsawwassen Library.

School’s out for summer, as the Alice Cooper song goes, but that doesn’t mean all learning has to stop during the holidays. In fact, many school teachers recommend reading in July and August to prevent “summer slide” as the lessons you learned all year slip away.

Tsawwassen community librarian Jeannie Cockcroft says one way to keep kids engaged during those lazy, hazy days of August is to have them join the Summer Reading Club.

A provincially funded program, children across the province can enter any library and read for 15 minutes a day to keep their minds sharp. At the end of each week, kids can come into their local libraries and receive stickers and mark their reading achievements.

“The children love that it is an incentive reading program,” says Jeannie. “And it doesn’t matter what they read, it can be anything from newspapers to camp guides, as long as they’re reading something.”

Enrolment in the Summer Reading Club is up this year and Jeannie has a few theories as to why that might be.

Firstly, it’s a great family bonding activity in a fast-paced and busy world. Because the program is promoted as being family oriented, it gets moms and dads reading with their children and spending quality time together.

Perhaps more importantly, Jeannie says this “reading modelling” will influence younger family members to become habitual readers later in life. Children tend to emulate the habits of their parents and if they see their parents reading, they’re likely to read. The opposite is also true.

“They think, why should I sit down and read if my mom and dad aren’t reading?” says Jeannie.

The second theory as to the club’s popularity is that people are becoming so sick staring at screens that visiting a library is almost a relief. Jeannie says it gives parents and teens an excuse to get away from their emails and text messages.

Reading can also have strong health benefits. Research has shown that while reading is a great bedtime activity, screen time before bed causes poor sleeping habits.

“It’s more calming, relaxing, easier on the eyes,” explains Jeannie. “There’s not as much stimulation.”

Parents shouldn’t expect children to get overly excited about the reading program right away. Jeannie says that even as a librarian it was like “pulling teeth” to get her kids to sit down and read for 15 minutes. She was forced to use a timer to make sure they didn’t slip away prematurely. Slowly but surely, however, the chore became a pleasure.

“By the end of the summer I didn’t need the timer anymore because they had got into the habit. But we sort of forget that reading needs to be one of those habits we enforce.”

Not all kids need to be forced to read. Jeannie says when many students are so overwhelmed with homework during the school year that summer is a time to relax and sink into a new world of adventure in the pages of a good fantasy novel.

There’s more to do at the library than just read. There’s a LEGO Club, puppeteer storytelling, visits by musicians, scientists and much more.

Be sure to visit your local library or log onto fvrl.ca to get a complete schedule of activities in August.

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