by Judy Newman with Alexie Basil
It wasn’t very hard to get me reading over the summer. I loved reading anyway, and if you added a competition on top of that, I was there.
When I was in seventh grade, the Newton Free Library (our local public library) hosted a competition to see who could read the most books over the summer. I needed to win! I buried myself in book after book and (as I recall it) blew past the next kid in the number of books I read.
After devouring the handful of books on my “to read” list, I biked over to the library and roamed the stacks for more. Sometimes it’s fun to read with no idea what you’re going to get—and some books pleasantly surprised me! Between those and the old favorites I reread, I definitely had a summer filled with amazing stories.
I did not have to read as many books as I did (165!) in order to win. But after I was comfortably in the lead, I competed with myself to make the margin as big as possible.
Some kids might think a summer stuck in the library would be the worst, but I loved it! And it sure beat the social experiment I forced on myself the next summer: going to Camp Three Pines in Maine for the month of July (please note: not for the whole summer like the “cool kids”).
In previous years, I had been perfectly happy to spend the summer competing in the aforementioned Newton Public Library Read-a-Thon; babysitting three of the five Burke kids, who lived across the street from us; putting on backyard plays; and driving a rented motor boat around Squam Lake during our two-week family vacation in Holderness, New Hampshire…and reading Archie comics (I wanted to look like Veronica and act like Betty!).
But I read something somewhere (probably in one of the 165 books from the previous summer) about the joys of sleepaway camp, and driven by FOMO, I wanted to give it a try.
I was only there for a month, but I don’t know if that made it better or worse since the all-summer kids knew each other—and the secret handshake. And while no real bullying was tolerated, the two-month kids definitely had their own special vibe. The camp policies were energetic, inclusive, and designed to make sure kids, including bookworms like me, didn’t hide in their cabins and read books all day instead of participating in sailing, diving, canoeing, lap swimming, archery—and the dreaded mixers with the boys’ camp, Moosehead. I found myself miserable and uncomfortable in my ill-fitting one-piece bathing suit (was there any other way these fit?!) with a bunch of way-more-self-confident 12-year-old girls.
When my one month at camp was over, I was happy to go back to Newton and read in peace. And, fortunately, after two years of Three Pines, I gave up trying to be a sleepaway camp kid and decided to stay home where I felt I belonged.
I trace my life as an independent reader, developing my taste in a wide and deep range of books, to that summer-reading competition at the Newton Free Public Library. From then on, I grabbed books wherever I could: from the library (of course); from Louis Strymish’s New England Mobile Book Fair (where we would go each spring after we moved up a grade to get our summer-reading books); and from Scholastic! In those days, the classroom book clubs were called Scholastic Book Services, and I was an ardent and frequent customer. I still have my copy of Blueberry Summer by Elisabeth Ogilvie, which I purchased for 50 cents from SBS. It sits on the shelf in my Scholastic office today—talk about coming full circle!
For me—and for all kids—active summer reading is critical. The biggest known reason that kids fall behind in school is known as the “summer slide.” Without the structured instruction and reading practice kids get during the school year to keep students’ skills sharp, kids are at risk of backsliding—often they return from summer vacation further behind than where they left off.
It turns out, the best way to combat the summer slide is by reading. And we know it’s true because every two years, Scholastic releases a nationally representative survey, the Kids & Family Reading Report, that examines the reading habits and attitudes of people all over the country. In the latest study, 96% of surveyed parents shared that they believe reading over the summer will help their child during the school year. However, one in five kids in lower-income families do not read any books at all over the summer. In general, the more affluent a family is, the more likely parents are to have heard about the summer slide, and greater the likelihood that children will read at least one book over the summer.
Scholastic Reading Club’s mission is to make great quality books affordable for students and families everywhere all year long. As we wind up our blog posts for the school year, we wanted to make sure to highlight some great books, each available for less than $5!
Plus if you know any kids who, like me, love a good summer-reading challenge (or just love to read!), please pass along this information about the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge. This free online and mobile program offers kids the chance to log the minutes they read throughout summer and unlock awesome prizes. There also are surprise activities every single week—like opportunities to draw Dog Man, play story-related games, and make your own comic!
It does not surprise me one bit to learn that, like me, David Vozar is also an Archie fan. Although we had different feelings about books as kids, he still relied on reading to help get him through the summer.
“I admit that when it came to doing reading assignments in school, I resisted. I was a great skimmer and very rarely really immersed myself in the text.
“Even when I am helping my son, Leo, with his nightly homework, I fall into the same habits. There is something about the writing in textbooks that numbs my brain.
“Growing up in the time before the Internet and cable television, there wasn’t a lot to do when summer came around. In those times, I would naturally turn to ‘light’ reading for entertainment. There were always magazines around like Life and Time. I would also use my allowance for Mad and Cracked magazines, Archie comics, and Peanuts books. Somehow it didn’t feel like ‘reading’ when I didn’t have to do it.”
All of us on the blog team are excited for summer reading, and we’ve put together a collection of Dollar Deal titles to help get you through these months. It’s also the perfect way to kick off your Scholastic Summer Challenge reading list!
When we return next fall, we are going to have tons of exciting new content for you. Keep an eye on your in-box and be the first to find out!
Happy summer and happy reading!
Don't Miss These Summer Reading Specials from Scholastic Reading Club