We are proud to partner with Save the Children for the Scholastic Summer Reading program in the effort to increase book access while providing fun and engaging experiences to keep children reading. We recently spoke with Betsy Zorio, Vice President of Save the Children’s U.S. Programs, who leads the organization’s work to drive kindergarten readiness and grade-level proficiency in literacy and math in more than 200 rural communities across the United States. In this Q&A, she talks about the importance of summer reading, shares tips for parents and caregivers, and highlights the process of distributing books to vulnerable children. Read the full interview below.
Why is it so important to engage children in reading during the summer?
Betsy Zorio: It’s essential for kids to continue reading and learning every summer, so they can build on what they’ve gained during the school year. And perhaps no summer is more critical than this one, with the scope and scale of school closures and learning disruptions over the past year. Kids need fun and new ways to stay engaged in reading and learning over the summer. For the youngest children, 90 percent of their brain development occurs by age 5, so it’s critical their minds are actively learning over the summer – and there is no better way to do that than through books.
What tips do you have for parents and caregivers to help their children spark a love for reading this summer?
B.Z.: It’s so important for children to have opportunities to use their imaginations and play. To get them excited about summer reading, parents can infuse a sense of discovery and play into their child’s next book. And connecting reading to a fun activity is a great way for kids to engage in reading. You could have your child read about trees, leaves, or bugs and then the family can go to the nearest park or hiking trail – or even your own backyard – with a magnifying glass. Your child will be excited to search for what they’ve just read about. For your child’s next storybook – or favorite storybook – you could have them make and gather some props to help tell the story, and then dress up as the main character. Ask them to enact the story for you, combining storytelling with any actions in the story. Siblings, parents, and family members can join in, too!
And for the younger emerging readers, you can include reading in everyday moments. Incorporate reading on a trip to the grocery store. Talk about the words you see on the road signs on the way there, and the different words posted throughout the store as you pick out your groceries. When you get home, maybe your child can help you prepare a meal – and you can read the recipe together. Reading can be a part of everything you do with your child!
How is Save the Children working to help engage kids in reading?
B.Z.: Save the Children works in more than 200 of America’s most impoverished, rural communities, ensuring children are getting the early learning and educational support they need to be successful in school and life. These are communities among our country’s many book deserts, where children have little to no access to books outside of school. It’s really important for kids to have a sense of ownership of books. Children who own books read and enjoy reading more than children who don’t have books in their home, and are more likely to read for at least 30 minutes each day. They are also 20 percent more likely to read above their expected reading level.
That’s why our early learning and school-age literacy programs help children and families continue to build their home libraries. And adding to that, our programs – including our summer learning programs – not only work to provide books to children, but pair books with activity materials and tips for families to help ensure the reading experiences for kids can be more engaging. We’re so grateful to Scholastic, our longtime partner, which is making this a reality for rural America’s most vulnerable kids – getting books in the hands of children who need them the most.
How is Save the Children’s partnership with Scholastic ensuring more kids are reading to succeed in school and life?
B.Z.: With the help of Scholastic, we are able to give hundreds of thousands of books to young readers in some of the most remote, rural communities all across the country. And this is not just handing children books and leaving it at that. In partnership with Scholastic, we are consistently able to select and provide age-appropriate books that help make reading fun and enriching for all ages – and many of the books we receive from Scholastic include activity kits to help further engage children in reading. This partnership is a tremendous complement to our early learning and education programs. Scholastic is helping us ensure kids find enjoyment in reading, which goes a long way in enabling them to achieve more in the classroom and life. And it’s a thrill to know we may be introducing a child to their new favorite book!
What great summer reads do you recommend for kids?
B.Z.: The best thing about summer reading is that kids can have the chance to choose what they want to read. And a great summer read can be a lot like a great summer vacation, which can take kids on an adventure they’ve never experienced. For me, I have such fond memories of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona book series when I was a child. I loved Ramona’s exuberance – she is curious, brave, and bold, and I was captivated by the many adventures she took me on. I encourage parents to empower their children to select summer reads with topics and characters that foster their interests and imagination. The more a child is part of selecting their own books, the more excited about reading they will become. And that next summer read could be the one that sparks a lifetime love of reading!
To learn more about the Scholastic Summer Reading program, visit: www.scholastic.com/summer
Jeremiah, 8, quietly reads to his buddy, Clifford, during Save the Children literacy programming in rural Mississippi. Photo: Save the Children.