Magician Tommy Johns recently entertained children at the Five Forks branch of the Gwinnett County Public Library during a kickoff event for the summer reading program. Johns helped introduce the theme of the summer, “Fizz, Boom, Read,” which is to encourage interest in science and scientists. It runs through Aug. 16. (Staff Photos: Keith Farner)
Depending on the age of a child near you, they could be following the luck of “Big Nate” and seeing if Chad’s lucky foot helps, or a 16-year-old dealing with cancer.
This year’s popular summer reading choices for children, pre-teens and young adults cover a range of topics and characters, but one recent trend, according to Gwinnett library officials and those who work to encourage kids to read, is that series are as popular as ever. Following a character through their ups and downs over several books is what kids love.
“Kids want to get to know the characters in a book and find out more about them,” said Tommy Johns, a Roswell-based magician who offers jokes and magic tricks in libraries and schools to encourage reading. “While you always had a couple of series that were popular, there are lots of series that kids are reading. Even some of the big authors like James Patterson and John Grisham are writing series for kids. Kids really want to get to know a character.”
Johns recently helped kick off the Gwinnett County Public Library’s summer reading program, “Fizz, Boom, Read,” at the Five Forks branch.
“I really do believe that reading opens the door to all kinds of learning,” Johns said. “I see what happens when kids start to read, it can change their lives.”
The theme of the summer in Gwinnett is centered on science books, experiments and biographies of scientists, said Amy Billings, events and outreach manager at the GCPL, who coordinates the program for the entire system.
“Our goal is for kids to read all summer long,” Billings said, “because when you stop reading over the summer, your skills immediately decline, and teachers have to spend the first couple of months getting them caught back up. We encourage parents to read for fun, whatever they like, whatever excites them.”
Because each child is different, Billings said individual goals are encouraged, and kids should read books they enjoy because during the school year they may be forced to read “the book of the day,” which isn’t always their first choice.
The Georgia Department of Education offered summer reading goals based on grade levels:
• K-2 students: 10 books
• 3-5 students: Eight chapter books
• 6-12 students: Five fiction books and five non-fiction books
“No student should have to start the school year having fallen behind,” State School Superintendent John Barge said. “That’s what we know, and that’s what we’re committed to preventing — because that loss is preventable. When students read over the summer, they can actually make gains in achievement. All of Georgia’s students deserve that.”
To ensure Georgia’s students don’t fall behind while school is out of session, the Georgia DOE is working alongside the Get Georgia Reading campaign, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement and the Council of Chief State School Officers to encourage summer reading.
Education officials have challenged students to reach every day in the summer for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Parents and students are encouraged to visit the Find a Book, Georgia website and make a “Summer Reading Pledge.” At that site, parents can find book recommendations throughout the summer tailored to a student’s interests and Lexile score. (If the child’s Lexile score is not known, the site can estimate reading level based on answers to a few simple questions.)
“Georgia’s Summer Reading Challenge will provide access to the language nutrition that all children need, year round, to succeed in school,” said Arianne Weldon, director of Get Georgia Reading — Campaign for Grade Level Reading. “Use of summer reading resources supports a climate of learning in the home and community during the summer months, and assists as a bridge to the next school year.”
For more information, visit 2014 Summer Reading Challenge website: www.gadoe.org/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Curriculum-and-Instruction/Pages/Georgia-Summer-Reading-Challenge.aspx.