I remember growing up in Planada how long the summer vacation seemed.
The long, hot days seemed to have no end and school was the farthest thing from my mind. The field work, such as picking figs and peaches and packing nectarines, took the place of the day-to-day academic work. It was an experience all its own, where the daily physical labor required rest and preparation for the following day.
Reading was not encouraged, and going to the library was not easy at the time and, therefore, not a priority. My parents were always working hard and certainly wanted my brothers, sister and I to get an education; they just weren’t aware of the importance of reading and the role it played in a child’s development.
Today it seems the summer break is shorter. Whether it’s three months or two, we can all use a break from school – students and parents alike. But keep in mind that for the next eight weeks or so, your children won’t be in a structured academic atmosphere every day where they are required to do some reading.
Yes, there are those who may attend summer school, but something more has to be added to the home environment during this time away from school.
It is absolutely crucial to the development of children, especially at an early age, to read to them, but it is more crucial during the summer when they run the risk of losing the academic momentum gained in their classrooms. Studies find that if children don’t keep up with their reading during the summer break, they experience a loss of learning and a reading-achievement gap once they return to school.
In addition, during the school year children from different socio-economic backgrounds may achieve on the same level, but once summer comes along the more disadvantaged children fall farther behind in reading ability due to limited or no access to books, no positive reading support from parents or family members, or no access to places where reading is supported.
As a parent, grandparent or foster parent, you can help bridge that academic gap by reading to the child who’s away from school during summer.
There are many resources in the different communities of Merced County that can be accessed at little or no cost. It can be through the public school system, a local business, a team sport, or maybe even your place of employment. But the main source continues to be your local public library.
Even though I didn’t have the experience of visiting the library very often when I was young, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to offer the experience to my own sons and later on to my grandchildren.
My husband wasn’t a frequent visitor to the library growing up either, but he grew up reading comic books during his family’s journey following agricultural crops from Florida to California. Today he loves books and can spend a whole day at any library or bookstore.
At a recent meeting, I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation given by Merced County librarian Amy Taylor and Pamela Cornelison, the library’s literacy program coordinator. They talked about the enriching and exciting programs and services offered at the county library for children and adults.
But what about children and parents who aren’t able to access a library for all these great learning experiences?
One of the tasksTaylor was charged with when she was hired as county librarian was to develop and establish a bookmobile – a library on wheels – that would go out to different unincorporated communities. She has done just that.
This is a great opportunity for parents of those areas who don’t have easy access to a library to keep their children reading while they are out of school for summer. Right now the bookmobile is scheduled to go to Planada, South Merced, South Dos Palos, Stevinson, Cressey and Ballico. My hope is that in the future they will expand the service to other areas.
Take advantage of what the library has to offer your child so he or she doesn’t lose the momentum needed for a good academic start to the next school year. But also, take some time to read at home and make some long-lasting memories with your children so they, too, can continue the reading experience with your family’s future generations.
Irene De La Cruz is a resident of Planada and has been involved with a number of community events and projects throughout Merced County. She owns her own business. She attended Merced College and California State University, Sacramento. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.