Children’s librarians work extremely hard to promote our annual summer reading programs. So hard, in fact, we have no problem dressing up in ridiculous costumes, telling corny jokes, and practically losing our voices (gotta love those school assemblies!) just to encourage children to read during the summer. It may be easy to sell the program to kids who already love to read, or just like reading enough to win nifty prizes. What about those kids who struggle with reading every day because of their learning disability? Do the things we say during our school visits reach those kids?
The National Center for Learning Disabilities just published an article entitled “How Library Summer Reading Programs Can Help Your Child With LD.” It highlighted several tips for parents about how children with learning disabilities and other special needs can participate in a library’s summer reading program. One strategy that was included was for parents to look into digital book options for their child with special needs. As the article says, “Digital books engage readers in multisensory ways and can make books accessible to people with dyslexia and others who struggle with printed material.” Ereading is reading, too. Free online resources, such as Learning Ally and Bookshare, are accessible online libraries specifically geared towards those who have print, reading, and learning disabilities. It’s also important for our patrons to know that they have eresources available at their libraries like Tumblebooks, Book Flix, Zinio, 3M, and MyMedialMall for their child to download. With more and more book apps for kids are being launched each day, selecting the right book app for their child may be a daunting task for parents. Resources like Common Sense Media and their list of Best Book Apps for Kids are perfect to share with parents who are looking that perfect app to engage their child and get them reading over the summer.
What I love most about a library’s summer reading program is that it brings the community together. Everyone has the same goal, which is to read, of course. And no matter what you read or how you read it (listening to audio books, ereading, shared reading), everyone can participate and be included. Children with special needs may not always feel like they are included during the school year, especially if they are in a separate reading group or classroom. During the summer at the library, though, barriers are broken down and all children are invited to participate. And for families with children with special needs who may not always feel included in other parts of the community, this is essential.
It’s no secret to us as librarians that our summer reading programs make a huge impact on the lives of children. However, sometimes we need to sell things a little differently to those parents that may not know the value of a summer reading program in their child’s lives. A national study from Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science entitled “Public Library Summer Reading Programs Close the Reading Gap” finds that students who participate in public library summer reading programs:
- score higher on reading achievement tests at the beginning of the next school year than those that did not participate
- spent more time reading over the summer and read more books, were well prepared for school in the fall, and read more confidently
- returned to school ready to learn, improved their reading achievement and skills, increased their enjoyment of reading, were more motivated to read, were more confident in participating in classroom reading activities, read beyond what was required in their free time, and perceived reading to be important
These are just some of the many reasons why we need to promote and advocate for our summer reading programs to children–all children–in our communities. For more information about learning disabilities, click here. And for summer reading recommendations for children with learning disabilities, take a look at this great list.
How are you making your library’s summer reading program inclusive? Share your ideas here!