Summer Reading Adventures

"The more that you read, the more things you will know" -- Dr. Seuss

© Tamara Bauer |

This famous quote by Dr. Seuss reminds us that reading never has to stop, especially during the summer. But with so many electronic distractions in today’s world, how can we make summer reading enticing for children?

Memphis Parent turned to veteran librarian Jan Colbert for ideas on how to make summer learning fun. She is co-founder of Two Old Crows, a nonprofit that brings literacy-based programming to preschool-aged children and families.


Memphis Parent: What’s your best tip for encouraging children to open a book after school gets out?

Jan Colbert: First, make sure books are readily available. Then, let children make their own choices. Not only are kids more likely to actually read and enjoy a book they’ve chosen themselves, but learning to make decisions is a big part of growing up.


How can parents make reading fun?

Visit the library and sign your children up for the free summer reading program. Prizes can lure reluctant readers; others may thrive on the freedom to read whatever they like.

Begin a home library with books from yard sales, Friends of the Library book sales, and bookstores. Set aside a family reading time every day. During the hottest part of the afternoon, come inside for a break, turn off electronics (unless it’s an e-reader), and read.

Another important component — let your children see you reading. Whether it’s a romance novel or fiction, your children will notice that reading is a part of your everyday life, and it will become part of theirs as well.

Read to your children and have them read to you. Books on CD or audio books — downloaded for free from the public library to your phone or computer — are great for car trips. Listening together opens up a whole new realm for family discussions, and you’ll likely learn new things about each other in the process.  


How important is having a mix of fiction and non-fiction books?

The key is to make all kinds of books available. For many, especially boys, non-fiction can lure them in. If a boy says he hates to read, the next question should be “Well, what do you like?” A dog-training book for the new family puppy? A book on magic tricks?

A sports biography? Help them find a favorite.


How can children with learning disabilities gain ground?

According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (, most students experience a loss of skills over the summer, but children who continue reading actually improve. The bottom line is simple: Read, read, read! Know your child’s needs and strengths. Does he remember best with a paper book to read while listening to the same story on a CD? Does she love graphic novels with picture clues that allow her to read closer to her age than her reading level? Summer is a time to explore those possibilities.


How can we build writing into everyday activities?

Have markers, pens, paper, and other materials available and encourage your children to use them. Even beginning readers will love to hear a story and retell it with drawings. Keep a journal of your summer activities or travels. Write a letter to Grandma, make a shopping list, create a map of your neighborhood. Whether on paper or on the computer, the point is to use words and pictures to share ideas.


The library summer programs are great if you’re home. Any ideas for families who travel?

E-readers are wonderful for trips. Load your e-reader up with free books from the library before leaving home. If your child wants more, Internet access makes the electronic holdings of your library available virtually anywhere in the world.

Parents can make up their own summer reading programs, complete with incentives tailored to each child. Or talk to your librarian about ways to participate long distance, such as keeping a reading log to be turned in to the library upon your return.




Summer reading programs in Memphis


EXPLORE MEMPHIS­ — June 2-July 25 • 415-2709
Memphis Public Library’s Summer Reading Program invites everyone to explore their interests while seeing area attractions. Participants can choose from this year’s theme: Fizz Boom Read! or pick a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) category. With a library-issued ‘passport’ in hand, readers continue learning by visiting the Memphis Zoo, Pink Palace Museum, Dixon, Brooks Museum, Theatre Memphis, and others on designated dates/times for free admission. At each destination, you’ll receive a claim code to enter into the EXPLORE MEMPHIS website to receive a digital badge. Kids can still enjoy Baby Bingo and winning weekly prizes that include books and gift cards. The grand prize is a Kindle Fire. The Urban Child Institute, a program sponsor, offers a free activity book for participation to children ages 3 to 5.


Fizz Boom Read! — May 27-July 25 • 457-2600
Kids entering grades 5 and under are encouraged to read or listen to books of their choice, record hours/minutes, and turn them in for trinkets, coupons, and a chance to win one of seven grand prizes. The theme for Young Adults Summer Reading Program is Spark a Reaction. Children entering grades 6 to 12 may read or listen to books and magazines of their choice. For every 10 hours logged, they’ll earn a coupon and an entry form for the weekly prize drawing. All entry forms are eligible for grand prizes that include Amazon, Target, and Barnes & Noble gift cards.


Give Me Summer, Give Me Books! — June 1-August 21 • 683-9801
The Booksellers at Laurelwood’s Summer Reading Program invites children to read six books (at least three from suggested titles) and turn in titles to receive rewards. Prizes include coupons to the bookstore, the Bistro, and a star with your child’s name on the Wall of Readers. This summer’s theme is Carpe Librum – Seize the Book!


Imagination’s Destination! — May 20-September 2 • 853-3264
Barnes & Noble’s Summer Reading Program encourages children grades 1 through 6 to read eight books, record them in the Reading Journal stating to whom they would recommend each book and why. Bring the journal to the store and earn a free book.


2014 Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge — May 12-September 5

This online reading program motivates kids to log in reading minutes, earn rewards, and set a new world record for summer reading. This year’s theme is Reading Under the Stars. Discover interactive star constellations that contain special video messages from NASA astronaut Leland Melvin. Take an extra ‘Chapter Challenge’ and learn more about space from Pascal Lee, a planetary scientist from the SETI Institute and Mars Institute and author of Mission: Mars. Children earn digital badges, a chapter from a favorite book for taking the chapter challenge, and a chance to win prizes.



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