Paula Williams: Summer reading: Keep up those good habits

Jun. 13, 2014 @ 12:36 AM

Today is the last day of school for students in Guilford County, and it seems a long time coming.  After missing 10 days due to inclement weather back in the winter, our spring break was shortened and our school year extended.   I honestly cannot remember going to school this far into the month of June.
So today as students say goodbye to each other, they embark on their long summer vacation.  I remember as a young student thinking that summer break was a very long time!  Today it seems to go by in a flash as a teacher.
I have also been thinking about summer activities that I enjoyed as a young elementary student.  Growing up in the 1960s, I did not have a computer or laptop.  I didn’t have an iPhone.  Our telephone was attached to the wall.  Our family’s summers were filled with riding bikes and playing outside and baseball.
One of my favorite summer memories, however, is the weekly trips to the High Point Public Library with my mother.  She would take me and my two siblings downtown to the old South Main Street location beside the old YMCA building at least once a week to check out books.  The library ran a summer reading program back then just as they do now.  In thinking back on those trips, it may sound crazy but I can even remember the special smell of the library back then:  paper, glue, ink pads, furniture polish, and cleanliness all mixed together to create a fragrance I came to love.
For those not old enough to remember the old library, we always entered the back entrance that went right into the Children’s section.  It was a huge, wonderful room filled with what seemed like endless volumes to me.  I loved using the old card catalog to look up titles.  There were no computer checkouts back then.  Books were ink-stamped with due dates in the back, and library cards were signed and left with the librarian.  I always got as many books as the library and my mother would allow, and I could not wait to get home to get started on them.
As I wrote final progress reports for my students this week, I found myself urging parents to keep their children reading over the summer so they would not lose their newly-found reading skills.  I know, however, that many won’t do that.  In fact, they will take the summer off from reading — take a vacation from 10 months of hard-earned skills.  That is definitely not a good idea for young readers.  The “summer slump” is a very real phenomena for those who don’t pick up a book over the summer.
It doesn’t have to be that way.  Parents, grandparents, caregivers:  take your children to the library.  Get them their own library card.  Give them time to browse the shelves.  Sign them up for the High Point Public Library’s summer reading program.  Read to them.  Listen to them read aloud.  Read in different locations.  Wait until dark and read by flashlight.  Make reading fun.  Make it an adventure.  Instilling a love for reading is a gift that will last a lifetime.
Paula Gulledge Williams lives in High Point and teaches at Pilot Elementary School in Greensboro. Her columns appear on this page every other Friday. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.