Library Summer Reading Programs
ALA Library Fact Sheet 17
Summer reading programs began in the 1890s as a way to encourage school children, particularly those in urban areas and not needed for farm work, to read during their summer vacation, use the library and develop the habit of reading.
The American Library Association does not set the themes for summer reading programs held at many public libraries nationwide. These may be set by the individual library or by the state library. Many individual or state libraries use the themes set by the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), a grassroots consortium of states working together to provide high-quality summer reading program materials for children at the lowest cost possible for their public libraries.
The value of reading throughout the long summer vacation is recognized by the ALSC/BWI Reading Program Grant which is designed to encourage reading programs for children in a public library by providing financial assistance of $3,000, while recognizing ALSC members for outstanding program development. It is sponsored by BWI (Book Wholesalers, Inc.), and administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC, a division of ALA). Applications are due by December 1 of each year in support of a program the next summer.
The benefits to readers in a summer reading program include:
- encouragement that reading become a lifelong habit
- reluctant readers can be drawn in by the activities
- reading over the summer helps children keep their skills up
- the program can generate interest in the library and books
And it being summer, the program can just be good fun and provide an opportunity for family time.
Talking points for the benefits of summer reading, Why Public Library Summer Reading Programs Are Important (PDF), have been made available by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. A more comprehensive look on the topic, along with a bibliography, can be found on their web site at Research on the Importance of Summer Library Programs.
There are also public relations benefits of attracting new readers, maintaining or building a library presence in the community, and keeping or building traffic for the library. Over the years, many libraries have entered their summer reading program into the John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award, co-sponsored by The H.W. Wilson Company and ALA's Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA, a division of the American Library Association). For additional information on libraries and public relations, please see the Public Relations page on the ALA Professional Tips Wiki.
- McCombs, Jennifer Sloan, Catherine H. Augustine, Heather L. Schwartz, Susan J. Bodilly, Brian McInnis, Dahlia S. Lichter and Amanda Brown Cross. Making Summer Count: How Summer Programs Can Boost Children's Learning. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2011. Abstract and free eBook (PDF) version at http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/MG1120. Also available in print form.
See the June 13, 2011 entry, First Comprehensive Research on Summer Slide Released, by Nora Fleming, on the Beyond School Blog of Education Week. Abstract excerpt: A review of the literature on summer learning loss and summer learning programs, coupled with data from ongoing programs offered by districts and private providers across the United States, demonstrates the potential of summer programs to improve achievement as well as the challenges in creating and maintaining such programs.
- "Prevent Summer Set Back" is a flier for parents which shares information on the benefits of summer reading. Published by the Colorado State Library and is available in both English (PDF) and Spanish (PDF).
- Know the Facts and Research in Brief
The National Center for Summer Learning, based at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, offers some pertinent points as well as full text articles and abstracts on these pages.
- Highlights of Research on Summer Reading and Effects on Student Achievement (PDF)
The New York Statewide Summer Reading Program created this 4 page bibliography of research sources.
- The Role of Public Libraries in Children's Literacy Development: An Evaluation Report (PDF) by Drs. Donna Celano and Susan B. Neuman, Pennsylvania Library Association, 2001 (via the Internet Archive)
- Evaluating Summer Reading Programs: Suggested Improvements by Joe Matthews, Public Libraries Online (from July/August 2010 Public Libraries).
- Building Effective Programs for Summer Learning - U.S. Department of Education, 2000. (Word doc)
- No Child Left Behind Summer Reading Achievers 2004 Pilot Program
The No Child Left Behind Summer Reading Achievers Program was designed to encourage students in grades K-8 to read during the summer months and help prevent fall-off in reading skills during the vacation. Students who read 10 books over the summer received a variety of prizes, including free books and a Summer Reading Achievers certificate. Thousands of students at 11 sites nationwide benefited from the program. The outcomes of the program showed that with this program, participants showed no summer reading loss.
- Please see also the information provided about early literacy for additional research supporting for children's summer reading programs.
View a list of additonal resources at the Summer Reading Programs page at the ALA Professional Tips Wiki, including links to library summer reading programs and links to summer reading lists.
Last updated: June 2011
For more information on this or other fact sheets, contact the ALA Library Reference Desk by telephone: 800-545-2433, extension 2153; fax: 312-280-3255; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; or regular mail: ALA Library, American Library Association, 50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611-2795.