By Debra Kirby
With summer fast approaching and news related to educational standards, common core, and the increasing need for students to focus on reading skills to meet the demands of the 21st century, educators and parents will be looking for ways to keep student skill levels high over the long break. A summer reading list is one way to meet that goal. Helping spark a child’s interest in reading and keep them reading through the summer, and hopefully for life, often hinges on finding the right book – one that will draw them in and introduce them to the wider world waiting to be discovered.
With that background, being part of the editorial teams responsible for the Books and Authors and the What Do I Read Next? (print and ebook) series of products has been especially gratifying, but somewhat frustrating too. Editors who work on this series make ample use of these resources to create their own personalized reading lists. For example, last summer, I used the targeted search features of Books and Authors to find what I felt would be the perfect book to take on vacation to Mackinac Island. By searching on “Romantic Suspense,” “Island” and “New England,” I was able to find the perfect light summer reading.
My adventures in summer reading began the year my mother bought me the first and second books in the Trixie Belden series and continued through my teen years when I graduated to the gothic romance, romantic suspense and mystery genres. My favorites made effective use of exotic locales that I longed to visit. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I’m convinced that my reading habit contributed to my subsequent academic success.
Later, as an adult and mother of two, my love of reading translated into the need to share the wonders to be found in books with my girls—Katherine and Miranda. We spent many evenings reading such books as James and the Giant Peach, The Secret Garden, and, finally, the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Reading aloud as they grew older helped give us time together that is often hard to come by once kids reach their teen years, when they’d rather be hanging with friends than with parents.
An unexpected bonus materialized with the publication of the Harry Potter series, which my oldest daughter, Katherine, now a middle school media specialist and language arts teacher in Florida, and I devoured together long-distance.
The fact that Katherine is now helping turn many other children on to reading, especially in this era of various video and media distractions, is truly gratifying beyond words. By helping reluctant readers find books with topics that interest them and holding reading contests and other events, she’s motivated many students to read their first full-length novel or biography and come back for more.
More recently, thanks to my granddaughter Grace, now 6-years-old, I’ve been delighted to revisit many old favorites and new discoveries. Whenever I question why we have to read so many more books than usual when she sleeps over at my house, Grace likes to tell me, “That’s what nanas do!”
So what could possibly be frustrating about being part of the Books and Authors and What Do I Read Next? series? Time! Using these products and their expert recommended reading lists and read alike suggestions as well as the multi-targeted search functionality, I’ve compiled reading lists that are so long, I simply don’t have time to read them all. At least until I retire, when I’m anticipating every time of year will seem like summer reading time. I’m looking forward to that!
About the Author
When Debra, a 28-year veteran of the publishing industry, is not working or reading, she can be found gardening, running, swimming, or “motivating” the students attending her early morning spinning classes at the local YMCA by sharing lame puns and good book recommendations.