Where did the practice of summer vacation originate? Most schools of thought are that the concept came from farming when children were expected to take time off from school to help on the family farm. Others feel the trend evolved from many wealthy families that would leave school for extended vacations in the summer. Another explanation is simple; the hot weather coupled with the lack of air-conditioning in schools.  Either way, school administers felt it best to close school for ten weeks after the typical 180-day academic year.

However, studies have shown the lengthy break does have an effect on school-aged children, causing a learning loss or the dreaded ‘summer slide.’ The effect tends to be more pronounced in poorer school districts where children may not spend their summers in camps, on vacation, or participating in artistically stimulating programs.

Reading just 20-minutes a day has been shown to help keep children’s reading skills sharp. The Spotwood Public Library’s Summer Reading Challenge is open to children of all ages and runs from June 22 through August 21. To participate, stop by the library and fill out a reading log and start reading. The Read to Me program is designed for youngsters from birth to kindergarten who aren’t reading on their own yet. The Kids Program is for grades 1 to 6 with the Teen Program welcoming readers from grades 7 through 12.

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Participants record the titles of the books read along with the dates and minutes spent reading.

Children can earn weekly prizes and enter the raffle to win grand prizes. Summer Reading prizes are donated by the Friends of the Spotswood Library and Gennaro’s Restaurant.

Teachers and librarians recommend allowing children to choose their own books over the summer since much of the school year is spent reading assigned ones. Educators also remind parents that comics, newspapers, magazines, e-books, and pretty much anything containing the written word encourages a child to read even the back of cereal boxes.

Milltown Public Library’s summer programs are also in full swing. The library offers Monday story times for toddlers at 10:45 a.m. for two to four-year olds and 11:30 a.m. for three to five-year olds. Babies are welcome for lap sit reading at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesdays. All ages are encouraged to come for story time at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesdays as well. Story time is canceled on certain dates during the summer. The complete schedule can be found at the library’s website.

Milltown also offers a monthly book club that meets on Tuesday evenings. Interested readers should stop by the circulation desk for copies of the latest read.

Educators suggest that the best way to raise a lifelong reader is to be a good role model and read too. Adults ages 18 and older can join in on the fun as well and start their own reading log at the Spotswood Public Library.