Summer Reading Matters

An interview with Children’s Services Manager, Lindsey Patrick

Lindsey-Patrick-NPL_featureIf you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Lindsey Patrick, our Children’s Services Manager, then you know the “Sshhh” tattoo that dons her index finger is incredibly ironic. Lindsey is a children’s book enthusiast and the brains behind Nashville Public Library’s successful summer reading program so we sat down with her to learn more about why summer reading matters. Read on for tips on how to engage children in reading and the top five books they should have on their nightstand this summer.

In 2014 you gave Nashville Public Library’s Summer Reading model a makeover. What inspired this transformation and how is it making a difference?

I once heard a saying about library services that goes something like this: ‘If you have been doing the same thing for a year, you need to evaluate it. If you have been doing the same thing for 3 years, you need to really look at it and make changes. If you have been doing the same thing for 5 years, you need to completely change the way you’re doing it.’ Obviously, this doesn’t work for all library services, but in the case of summer reading, it was accurate. Our summer reading programs were attractive to the people who came into our libraries, but in order to prevent “summer slide”, we needed to create a program that appeals to people in our libraries and those that may not be able to make it to a library during the summer.

What is “summer slide” and why does it matter?

A significant amount of research has shown that children who do not read during the summer months experience “summer slide” or a loss of reading skills. Which means that they return to school a little behind where they left it in terms of their reading ability. What is even more troubling is that this reading loss is cumulative and by the time that they enter 6th grade, a child who consistently does not read during the summer could be up to two reading levels behind his peers. Research also shows that in order to prevent summer slide, children need access to books and reading role models. Obviously, the library is a wonderful place to provide access to books and reading role models, but in order to reach the children who couldn’t make it into the library, we needed to create an outreach program that went to where those children are. Our Summer Outreach program takes the Summer Challenge to feeding sites around town and “checks out” books from our summer lending library and allows library staff to talk with the children about what they read and recommend other books.

As a Children’s Librarian and parent, do you have any tips on how to encourage and engage children in summer reading?

The most important thing that you can do to help your child love reading is to let them read what they want to read – especially during the summer! During the school year, there is a lot of required reading, so during these summer months, let your children have fun exploring all of the different books, magazines, and graphic novels that they might not be able to during the school year. That acceptance helps create lifelong readers and allows children to gain confidence in their reading skills. Also, read what they are reading, so you can then engage in meaningful discussions about the books and find activities that supplement the themes within the books they are reading. If they are reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, get them a diary; if they are reading Sew Zoey, teach them how to sew a simple purse or a pillowcase. Even better, find a free class at the library that can help them learn those new skills!

Research shows that reading just 4 or 5 books over the summer can prevent a decline in reading-achievement scores for middle school students. What are the top 5 summer reads you’d recommend for this age group?

  1. The 5th book in Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories series comes out in July. Fantasy adventure fans can catch up with the first four before the latest installment comes out.
  2. Kate DiCamillo (A May Salon @ 615 author) is always a good bet for middle schoolers. From fantasy tales, to gentle realistic fiction her special form of storytelling makes for great summer reading. Her latest book is Raymie Nightingale and is sure to delight fans of Because of Winn Dixie.
  3. Kwame Alexander follows up his Newbery-award-winning Crossover with another novel in verse, Booked. This one is centered around soccer and features a rapping librarian (fun fact: rapping librarians are less rare than you might think!)
  4. For graphic novel fans, I love Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama, Sisters, etc.) and Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. Both authors manage to capture the awkward middle school years with humor and relatability.
  5. Some children prefer to read non-fiction, especially narrative non-fiction. One of my favorites in this genre, is: Bomb: the race to build – and steal – the world’s most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin.

NPL’s Summer Reading program is made possible by gifts to the Nashville Public Library Foundation. Every year, community support provides more than 20,000 children, teens and adults with access to FREE summer learning and reading opportunities. You can prevent Nashville students from falling behind! Click below to learn how.