While following activity on Book Twitter this spring, I saw the hashtag #KidsNeedBooks appearing more and more frequently. This movement, in a nutshell, came from a number of authors and educators trying to get books in the hands of kids to give them something to read during summer break.
When I was in elementary school, summer reading was one of the greatest things about the break. The local library had a program that tracked your reading throughout those months, with little prizes along the way and a party of sorts at the end. Even so many years later, I can clearly remember walking through that overpoweringly air-conditioned building and exploring the shelves each week, and the anticipation that would build with each title I would add to my growing “To Be Read” pile.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an experience widely shared by many of my own students. Too many of them don’t see summer break as a chance to dive into reading and fill their heads with new adventures, but instead a time that brings a lot of instability and insecurity into their daily lives. Wouldn’t it be great if all kids, from the ones who frequent the bookstores or libraries to the ones taking their summer break one day at a time, had at least one book they could escape into for part of their day?
As the last day of school gets closer for my students and me, I’m taking gradual steps to close down my classroom. In doing so I’m reminded how my classroom library is so much more extensive than what I have displayed on the limited space I have available for my bookshelves. I keep most of the library boxed up during much of the year, rotating the titles with each academic term to keep them fresh and keep the kids interested. As I see these boxes and boxes stuffed full with books — novels, nonfiction, picture books, graphic novels, hardcovers, paperbacks, even a few galleys, you name it — it occurs to me a lot of the books I’ve collected over the years aren’t living up to their potential being packed away.
I think I’m going to do something about that this year. In the spirit of the #KidsNeedBooks movement, which I would encourage everyone to learn about, I’m going to sort through the pile before packing them away for the year and make them available for my students. Book ownership really comes to pass when you read a book, but it’s a powerful thing at that age to be able to hold a book you love in your hands and know that copy is yours, and that you can re-read it as many times as you want.
One book can change how a kid might think about the world. The summer gives them plenty of time to do that thinking. Anyone interested in learning more about this movement should look up the hashtag, and see what kinds of exciting things have happened after a few people following through on a simple idea.