Summer Reading Program Review

Junior was so intrigued when I brought home the NYPL summer reading flyer below last summer that he insisted on sleeping with it. Since we read tons of books anyway, I thought, why not get credit for what we do? Thus began my mini-experiment of signing up for all of the free summer reading programs in our area. Read on to find out our results! 

 The New York Public Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge flyer, courtesy of nypl.org

The New York Public Library 2015 Summer Reading Challenge flyer, courtesy of nypl.org

Thanks to the balance's list of thirteen summer reading programs, I knew that Junior was eligible for not only our public library's program, but also two other programs in our area. If he completed TD Bank's Summer Reading Program, he'd get ten dollars. Completion of the Barnes and Noble Summer Reading Triathlon would mean that he'd be able to visit the store and pick out a free book. Our next step was the public library.

Getting a library card for Junior was very easy--I just needed to bring my ID and proof of where we lived. I thought that children had to be able to write their names to get a library card but no! The librarians explained that in my city's system even babies can get their own library cards.

Our public library's children's librarian also explained that although the summer program officially ran June 20 - August 12, it was possible to register online starting June 1. Then, as we read books (Junior is a beginning reader, so summer reading programs this year were a joint effort), we would log them in online to get credit. If we had problems logging books in at home, the staff at the library could help us at the library's computers. 

Why is it important to read with your child over the summer break? Because it helps your child avoid the "summer slide"--a reversal of their academic progress over the past year during the summer no-school months. The U.S. Department of Education's blog quotes Laurie Calvert, its Director of Teacher Outreach, “It’s like if you play an instrument but put it down for three months. You’re not going to be as good as a person who continues to play the instrument over those three months.” The School Library Journal blog reviewed Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Reading Achievement Gap, edited by Richard L. Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen. Alicia Eames' review quoted from the book, “[S]ummer reading loss accounts for roughly 80% of the reading achievement gap between more and less economically advantaged children.” Eames went on to say, "[T]his gap, which builds over a child’s school career, can be greater than four academic years." [italics mine]

As we read books, I used the TD Bank Summer Reading Program's recording form (downloadable online) to keep track of what we were reading. 

 Most of these books are library books. 

Most of these books are library books. 

Both TD Bank and Barnes and Noble used downloadable write-in forms for their reading programs. I found that the hardest part was logging the books that we read. Junior is also a beginning writer. Sitting down with a stack of library books to record titles was tough for him, let alone writing the letters!

Week by week, we read--and finally, August 12 arrived. Junior missed the end-of-program party. When he walked into the library that weekend, he was pleasantly surprised to receive a bag of candy and small toys. He came home proudly sporting a reading program pin and then upended the bag on our kitchen table to show me all of his swag, which also included gift certificates for a free meal at Chipotle and a free sundae at Applebees.

 Here he is at Chipotle enjoying his free meal. This was his first time at Chipotle, and he says that he liked his meal and plans to go back. AOK--he has more gift certificates!

Here he is at Chipotle enjoying his free meal. This was his first time at Chipotle, and he says that he liked his meal and plans to go back. AOK--he has more gift certificates!

After our Chipotle meal, we headed off to Barnes and Noble to pick out his free book. An associate pointed us to an endcap display and told us to pick a book, then head to the counter with the book and our filled-out summer reading form. I had thought that the choices would be all character books, but the selection of books to choose from was a nice mix, including character titles like Justice League vs. Bizarro League, some classics--Stuart Little was one of the options--and modern fiction. Chomp, by Carl Hiaasen is one that I've been planning to read for myself. One day, Junior will be able to read this great Florida satirist!

The payoff for the TD Bank Summer Reading Program proved a tougher attainment. The webpage with the downloadable book recording form doesn't include the finer details for receiving the $10 payoff. To get the ten dollars, you and your child have to go to a TD Bank location with the following:

  • a filled-out summer reading program form
  • your child's social security form
  • your child's birth certificate

Once there, reading program reward redeemers have to wait quietly in line (this may be hard for younger children) and then go through a 20-minute signup process. Spoiler: don't try this close to mealtime or nap time! Another important detail: your child will not be able to withdraw any money for a few days.

TD Bank does have a lot of goodies for children, so be sure to ask when you get there. The free pens, lollipops, and dog biscuits are out on the counter. But behind the counter the bank also stocks stickers, banks, and coloring books (IIRC). Ask, and you shall be rewarded!

Will we be eligible for another $10 next year? I have to call TD Bank! We'll definitely do the other two programs. From our experiences this year, getting into a routine to log the books is key. Next year, I hope that Junior will take the lead on logging the books--but we'll see.