For most kids, the dog days of summer have set in and summer reading is low on their list of things to do. But hundreds of Connecticut students will be ahead of their peers when they return to school this fall, thanks to the Reading Books in Summer program (RBIS), now in its 13th year.
RBIS is designed to inspire children, ages five through 12, to read during their summer vacation. The program is sponsored by the New Britain Rock Cats, Connecticut Library Consortium and Central Connecticut State University.
Some 134 libraries throughout the state are participating in RBIS this summer, and each is setting its own ground rules. Children who read the number of books determined by their librarian will receive a voucher for free admission to a Rock Cats game in New Britain.
The vouchers will be redeemable on one of three designated Summer Reading Recognition Nights held Aug. 17, 18, and 19. One lucky participant will be selected to throw the first pitch.
Libraries participating in the program include: Berlin Berlin Free Library, Berlin-Peck Memorial Library, Durham Public Library, East Hampton Public Library, Rathbun Memorial Library in East Haddam, Brainerd Memorial Library in Haddam, Meriden Public Library, Levi E. Coe Library in Middlefield, the Russell and Edith Wheeler libraries in Middletown, the Portland Public Library, and the Cora J. Belden Library in Rocky Hill.
Summer reading loss has been determined by a large body of research, says Jesse Turner, associate professor of Reading & Language Arts at CCSU.
“A child who does not read during summer vacation will, by sixth grade, lose nearly three grades,” Turner says and emphasizes that this is especially true for reluctant readers, special needs children and children in poverty.
Encouraging children to read is not just about the cognitive aspects of reading, said Turner, director of CCSU’s Literacy Center. “The key thing about summer reading loss,” says Turner, “is that it doesn’t matter what a child reads during the summer as long as they read. It’s about developing the love of reading.”
He highlighted what he calls “an extreme correlation” between the amount of independent reading and high test scores.
“By isolating the data and looking at our highest scorers we find those children read for pleasure and do so independently outside of school.”
Turner recommends parents follow these three simple guidelines:
Encourage children to read every day
Allow children to select their own reading materials (comics vs. books)
Help them find subjects that interest them (animals, history, travel, etc.)
Although it’s the end of July, it is not too late to participate in Reading Books in Summer. Children must sign up at a participating library.