June 23, 2018
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Maine libraries encouraging families to spend the summer reading

By Natalie Feulner, BDN Staff

Fizz. Boom. Read. It’s time to think about summer vacation for students in Maine, and several libraries throughout the state are encouraging children and families to jump into reading and science this year.

The theme of summer reading programs is not set by the Maine Library Association, but many branches, including Bangor and South Portland, are going with science themes such as “Fizz, Boom, Read” for children and “Spark a Reaction” geared toward teens.

In part, the themes are a response to the recent push toward teaching students more about science and technology, but Barbara McDade, Bangor Public Library director, said it’s more than that.

“We want them to know that you’re an individual, and you can learn as an individual,” McDade said. “Childhood is a time to really explore, whether it’s dinosaurs, stars or things that go fizz.”

Activities for the libraries participating in “Fizz, Boom, Read,” include performances, a science fair in Bangor and craft days.

Just have fun

Summer reading programs aren’t and shouldn’t be about counting the number of books a child reads or what their reading level is, said Christine Erickson, children’s librarian at Bangor Public Library. Instead, children should choose to read what they enjoy, whether it’s young adult fiction or a magazine.

“When you read a good book, it’s just really fun,” she said.

Summer also is a perfect chance for families to spend the often calmer days reading and exploring books together.

McDade, who fondly remembers her father reading the entire family classics such as “Black Beauty” and “Huckleberry Finn,” joked that she waited to get married until she found a man who would read to her. She’s happily married, and her husband recites poetry and reads aloud when there’s time.

“Words are a strong bond, stories are an important part of human life,” McDade said.

According to the Maine Humanities Council, “parents who take pleasure in books, convey that pleasure to the child. Children who associate pleasure with books enter school eager to read.”

Preventing summer slide

Reading during the summer also can help prevent “summer slide,” the idea that children who don’t read during their break start the new school year further behind than when they left in the spring. A report by the National Summer Learning Association showed that teachers often spend at least one month re-teaching material that students forget during the summer.

When a child, however, is interested in something or being read to by someone such as a parent, they are often comprehending material far beyond their normal reading level, McDade said.

Talking to children about books also gives parents a chance to see what their child is thinking about the story, what they’re seeing the key point of the book is and how they’re interpreting it.

“You can use books to have conversations about value systems, family traditions,” McDade said. “You may think they aren’t listening, but you would be surprised.”

Headed on a road trip this summer and dreading the “are we there yet” question? Audiobooks are often available to either download or checkout on CD from local libraries. It’ll help pass the time and give everyone a chance to enjoy a good story.

“There’s no age for reading and almost all people really love to be read to, it frees your mind,” McDade said.

For more information about local summer reading programs, visit or contact a local library. For the full list of Maine libraries and phone numbers, visit the Maine State Library website.

Great books to read as a family:

“Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures” by Kate DiCamillo: This 2014 Newbery award winner for “the most distinguished American children’s book,” follows the adventures of Flora, who rescues a squirrel that was sucked up by a high powered vacuum and received superpowers. The book is an illustrated, middle-grade chapter book but can appeal to all ages.

“It’s bizarre but so, so wonderful,” Erickson said, adding that she found herself crying at the end.

“Al Capone Does My Shirts” by Gennifer Choldenko: This young adult novel stars 12-year-old Moose, whose family moves to Alcatraz Island off the coast of San Francisco, so his father can work at the prison and Moose’s sister, who is autistic, can attend a special school in the city.

Roald Dahl books, such as “Matilda,” “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach,” often feature single children who find themselves at the mercy of wicked adults, yet rise above their circumstances.

Check out other Newbery Medal winners and nominees from 1922 to present on the Association for Library Service to Children website, or visit scholastic.com for additional books and ideas.

Tips for making reading part of family life this summer:

— Create activities based around books. Headed to the beach? Bring along beach and ocean-themed books. Make a recipe mentioned by a favorite character, or check out books about local plants and animals before taking a hike.

— Break the boredom. More hours out of school means more hours to fill. So when the idea of a lazy summer is no longer novel, suggest a story hour, build a fort in the living room and read away.

— Read aloud, or take your children to see a local storyteller.

— Relax the rules. Avoid counting minutes or books read. Reading should be about good stories and having fun.

— Visit the library. In addition to the countless books available to borrow, almost every library has summer reading programs that include activities, reading groups and prizes.

Source: Reading is Fundamental.


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