Grand County libraries: Catching the reading bug really works
July 18, 2008
My 6-year-old son, Sebastian, has caught the reading bug.
This is not a bug that gives a fever or causes visits to the doctor’s office. It is, literally, a reading bug.
How do I know this?
His bedroom door says it very clearly. Hanging on the doorknob is a colorful sign in the image of insect that says, “Don’t Bug Me, I’m Reading.”
I know it also because he talks frequently about how he’s going to use the $10 gift certificate he receives for Country Ace Hardware from the Granby Library. He must earn this certificate by reading or having us read to him 25 books from June through July.
I know because I am helping him fill out his reading log that documents the books he’s read each week. He is, after all, 6 years old and it’s tough for him to fill out the log. But he helps me complete the log, that’s for sure. He wants to be darn sure I get every single book on that reading log.
I know he’s caught the reading bug because, although we read to him regularly, he’s suddenly become more aggressive about making sure we read enough books each week.
He doesn’t want to miss out on that prize at the end of the program.
Some might call this prize program bribery. Me? I call it a wise and well-intentioned program of positive reinforcement for an activity that will help Sebastian throughout his life. It will help him learn and succeed, of course. But it will also give him enjoyment. The focus this summer has been enjoyment.
I interviewed Sebastian about the summer reading program at Granby Library this summer. I asked him what was good about it.
“I love to read stuff and have prizes and make stuff,” he said. “There’s a puzzle cube and a lady bug.”
I asked him how we could be sure he’s doing the reading as expected. At first he looked at me as if I was nuts because I know he’s done the reading because I’ve done most of it with him. My wife also reads with him.
Then he caught my drift.
“Yes,” he said, “because I count my readings.”
Is there anything else he likes particularly about the summer reading at the Granby Library?
“I like the programs they have,” he said.
“Like what,” I say, prodding a little.
“The drum lady and the bug lady,” he said, convinced that I must understand completely. Then I remembered that Barb King, an entomologist from Rocky Mountain National Park conducted a program for the children at the Granby Library.
And I took some photos of Helen Trencher, musician (or the “drum lady”) who was also an animated storyteller.
True to what I imagine is the intent of this reading program, I also have encouraged Sebastian to read some of the books on his own, with my supervision. So, about 10 of the books on his list are simple enough to have been read by himself. These are, I assure you, simple and easy books. But he did read them himself.
The rest of the books on his list have been read to him by myaself or my wife, usually before bed.
Obviously, the intent of the program is first and foremost to get children reading during the summer months when school is out. For that reason, the program doesn’t emphasize difficult books or “learning” books. The program should be fun, and children should read about what interests them. Even the simplest books count, as I’ve learned.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t accountability. In fact, that’s why there’s a reading log. It may seem like a simple thing to keep a reading log. It may also seem like a chore.
However, I have learned that this reading log actually works as inspiration for reading since the big prize at the end of the program is awarded only when the reading log is completely filled out. Sebastian understands this concept.
He also understands that he can’t just make up books or fib about what’s been read.
That’s because he’s been questioned ” gently questioned, I must add ” about some of the titles on his list. This is a good thing and it inspires in Sebastian a desire to retain something ” any little thing ” about the books he’s read or listened to.
Even for children who haven’t read all the books there are incentives along the way, not the least of which is an end-of-season celebration for all the participants, whether they’ve read 50 books or only one.
These incentives really do work, I’ve discovered.
There are also programs designed especially for older youths. Children entering third-fifth grade must read a total of 15 hours.
Children aren’t the only ones who can benefit from summer reading programs. Your library is also offering a special Teen Summer Reading Program called Metamorphosis @ Your Library. Offered for sixth grade to 12 grade students, teens
who participate set their goals and keep track of what they read in logs. (Participants are encouraged to read at least 500 pages.) Teen participants who meet their goals will enjoy a fun-filled day at Winter Park Resort.
Here we are, halfway through the summer and my worry that Sebastian would lose some of the basic reading preparation he gained in kindergarten has turned out to be in vain, thanks to the Catch the Reading Bug program at the Granby Library.
Each library in the county offers the same program, with different incentives and prizes to match their communities.
Now, I’m a believer.
The summer reading program really works, thanks to positive reinforcement and that reading bug caught by Sebastian ” and now by me.
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