Let's Read. Let's Move. Let's Support Public Libraries
Sent to the Christian Science Monitor, June 10, 2010
As part of a program called "Let's read. Let's Move," First Lady Michelle Obama is calling for children to read five books over the summer to prevent summer reading loss: Some children lose about two months of reading progress over the summer ("Michelle Obama's next childhood obesity target: summer break," June 8). But it makes no sense to require or encourage reading when there is little access to books.
The children who show reading loss over the summer are children of poverty. Research shows that children of poverty have little access to books at home, at school and in their communities. Public libraries in high-poverty areas are not well-funded, and have fewer materials and are open fewer hours than those in low-poverty areas. Studies also show that when children have access to interesting and comprehensible reading material, the children really do read.
The first step in dealing with the summer slump is the most obvious: Better funding of public libraries, especially in high-poverty areas, and more support for librarians who understand what children really like to read.