OPINION O'Mara: 'Keep turning the page this summer'

N.Y. State Senator Tom O'Mara

Numbers help tell every story.

For example, many studies have made the case that children who read during the summer make greater academic gains in the following school year than children who do not. In fact, the statistics on the “summer slide” jump right off the page, including that:

• Students can lose up to 25% of their reading level over the summer

• Children who don’t engage in summer reading lose approximately two months of instructional time, or roughly 22% of the school year

• By the end of the sixth grade, children who lose reading skills during the summer are, on average, two years behind their peers.

So the numbers help tell the larger story. But words themselves can help deliver the most meaningful testimony of all.

N.Y. State Senator Tom O'Mara

Scholastic’s “Kids & Family Reading Report” has become one of the gold standards of advocacy and research on the importance of summer reading. The organization’s Chief Academic Officer, Michael Haggen, has said, “Parents, grandparents, older siblings, teachers, principals—everyone in a child’s life—can be a reading role model. It’s up to us all to provide the opportunity for choice, be readers ourselves, ask and answer questions about what a child is reading, read aloud together (regardless of age!), and more. When a child knows that the people surrounding them value reading, we will have a greater culture of literacy in our homes and in our schools.”

Summer reading is a lifeline and I am grateful this summer to join with the New York State

Library and public libraries statewide, including so many throughout the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions, on “Summer Reading at New York Libraries” initiatives.

For my part, I’m proud to share the Senate’s online summer reading program. To participate, students and parents can visit my Senate website, www.omara.nysenate.gov, and click on the “Summer Reading Program” logo near the top of the home page to sign up.

At its most fundamental level, summarizing the range of research on the importance of summer reading for students is straightforward: it is all about getting books into the hands of kids.

According to Scholastic, a few of the keys to successful summer reading are letting young readers choose the books they want to read (91% of children say they’re more likely to finish a book if they’ve picked it out themselves), encouraging kids to read four or more books and, maybe most importantly, providing easy access to books.

The underlying importance of access points directly to the critical role our public libraries play to encourage students and their families to read.

Libraries are the gateway for making books and other reading materials and programs available throughout our communities. Our region is incredibly fortunate to have an outstanding network of public libraries providing access to books and other reading activities, materials, and opportunities.

So keep in mind that our local libraries also sponsor a variety of summer reading activities and events. Visit the website of the Southern Tier Library System, www.stls.org, for links to member libraries in Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, and Yates counties. The members of the Finger Lakes Library System, including Tompkins County, are online at www.fls.org.

Over two million young people statewide have participated in its summer reading program annually, according to the New York State Library. More information on “Summer Reading at New York Libraries” is online at www.nysl.nysed.gov.

There are plenty of ways to help children get summer off to a great start and then to keep making the season meaningful and memorable.

A reading list is one of the best ways of all.