Share the Gift of Summer Reading, By First Lady Glenna Fletcher
Some of my earliest memories of my childhood are of our trips to our public library. I can remember it well—walking up the steps to the Lexington Public Library. I remember looking up at all the books and being overwhelmed at where to begin, but looking forward with anticipation to what I would discover there.
Last year, over 122,000 children and teens in 113 counties across Kentucky participated in public library summer reading programs. Since 1981, these programs have motivated children to read books without the pressure to take tests or score points. It’s an opportunity to read purely for pleasure. Recently, Kentucky has joined a consortium of 36 states which share the same summer reading theme. It is very exciting to know that Kentucky is part of a larger effort to generate a love of reading among our nation's young people. As First Lady of Kentucky, encouraging and promoting early literacy is one of my top priorities. I have traveled around the state promoting the Read to Achieve Act of 2005 and other reading initiatives, encouraging children to get excited about reading.
Reading is the gateway skill needed for academic success. Studies on summer reading show conclusively that the number of books read during the summer is consistently related to academic gains and that reading as a leisure activity is the best predictor of comprehension, vocabulary and reading speed. That is why summer reading programs are so important. They help children progress during the long summer months and they spark interest in reading.
This year the children's summer reading program theme is "Paws, Claws, Scales and Tales;" the companion program for teens is called "Creature Feature." Activities at libraries will feature pets both real and imaginary. Libraries will have opportunities not only to entertain children with stories and activities about beloved pets, like our two-year old West Highland white terrier Abby, but also to educate them about humane treatment of animals, responsible pet ownership, opportunities and careers for children who love animals, and about those non-pet animals helpful to humans in so many ways.
As a young girl, I remember long, hot summer nights, reading with the aid of a flashlight, to avoid keeping my little sister awake. Nancy Drew Mysteries were one of my favorites, but biographies about Kentucky pioneers were another area I loved. I remember reading about Ephraim McDowell—which might have sparked my later interest in nursing.
Books and reading can have a profound impact on a child’s life. By our encouraging them, taking trips to the library, and reading together, a child’s life can be changed. I credit my mom and dad with my love of reading; I now share that joy with my grandchildren through trips to the library and reading our favorite books together. Even our dog Abby joins in our fun. Reading opens the window to mystery and excitement, and this summer I am urging parents to encourage their children to maintain their reading skills while on summer vacation by participating in public library summer reading programs.
Summer library activities have the goal of promoting enjoyable, voluntary reading to help students of all ages maintain reading skills while on vacation. So I encourage Kentucky families to join their libraries’ summer reading programs, read about favorite pet characters and live pets too, and enjoy the treasures of good books. I strongly believe that if we get the reading right, the rest will fall into place.