Even with many libraries closed, there are some great ways to get a literacy fix. Image: Alice Proctor @APCartoons

Literacy in the Modern Age

How Reading is Thriving in a Changing World

Reading may not be at the top of most kids’ summer itinerary especially with so much binge-worthy content to consume on Netflix and a TikTok feed that won’t quit. Nonetheless, it remains a classic summer activity. There is absolutely nothing like laying in the grass completely immersed in a good book. With many of the usual summer activities like vacations and trips to the pool benched this year, now is the time to rediscover the art of reading. Luckily, you don’t have to look very hard to find some great, made-for-the-times content to satiate the bookworm in you.

Classic Summer Reading Programs with Modern Makeovers

I feel so old saying this, but back in my day (I almost threw my back out just typing that), a huge part of summer included library trips and poring through summer reading lists. Don’t even get me started on the Scholastic Book Fair. If you aren’t privy to the pure ecstasy that is a Scholastic Book Fair, these were essentially fundraisers where Scholastic Books would sell their titles directly to students with a portion of the proceeds going toward the school. I couldn’t wait to waltz into school clutching my parent’s check and a completed book form that was about 15 books deep, which was a respectable compromise with my parents from the 25 books I initially requested. After what felt like years, but was actually more like 3-5 weeks, I would walk into class one Friday and find a fresh stack of books on my desk ready for the reading. Needless to say, I was pleased to discover the Scholastic Book Fair not only still exists, but they are holding virtual book fairs this summer. Parents can order books for their students with proceeds going toward the school and books are shipped directly to homes to limit the burden of schools having to distribute the books.

Another fond memory of my childhood was Pizza Hut’s great summer reading program where kids were rewarded with personal pan pizzas after reaching their reading goal. Thank God for my 10-year-old metabolism because I was eating personal cheese pizzas every other week and staining my books with greasy fingerprints in my quest to earn another pizza. This program continues to run (I’ve, unfortunately, aged out. Yes, I’m bitter about it.) and puts a little competition and incentive into the wild world of reading for students.

Local libraries will likely remain closed this summer. That isn’t stopping them from getting creative in delivering good reads to kids. In Virginia, kids can have books sent to them via drone thanks to some creative thinking from a local librarian, Kelly Passek. She is taking book orders from students in her county, picking them up from local libraries, and then bringing the packaged books to her local Google drone fleet, Wing. Then, the books are dropped off to kids at home. And I thought I was cool with my Scholastic Book Fair package sitting on my desk. I completely missed out on all of the pomp and circumstance of a drone book delivery.

Bedtime Stories to Bookmark

If the kids aren’t quite ready to break away from the screens and dive into physical books, we luckily live in a digital age where finding a great book to read or even having a book read to you is as easy as simply unlocking your phone. Many companies have taken to YouTube in collaboration with famous faces to read some of their favorite books and spread some book magic online.

Dolly Parton founded the Imagination Library in 1990 to advocate for children’s literacy. The library even mails books to children for free from birth until age five. Now, the Imagination Library has gone digital and has been sharing videos of Dolly reading her favorite bedtime stories to kids.

Disney is practically synonymous with modern day childhood stories and they have tasked their talent to read stories to fans as well. The series features everyone from the original voice of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, Jodi Benson, to Full House’s Uncle Jesse, John Stamos all reading classic Disney fairy tales we know and love.

PBS Kids is also offering read-along sessions with famous faces including Michelle Obama, Dwayne Wade, and Kristen Bell. You could spend hours having classic books read to you by your favorite celebrities if you felt so inclined.

Summer Reading Isn’t Just for the Kids

Adults aren’t being left out of the book bonanza either. California’s largest independently owned bookstore, The Last Bookstore, is specially curating book packages based on your favorite books or authors. You provide them with a budget and a few of your favorite authors and titles and they’ll send you books you may enjoy based on those preferences. It’s like having your own personal book curator.

Reading is a pretty solitary activity, but sometimes you just have to talk to somebody about that great book you read. Virtual book clubs are sprouting up offering readers the chance to connect with other like-minded individuals to chat about their favorite reads. The options are limitless and there’s something to tickle every fancy. If you want your book club to be a democracy, there’s the Book Riot Insiders Epic Quarterly Read where readers vote on a book and meet up for a quarterly video chat about the book. Sports fans might enjoy the Andrew Luck Book Club brought to you by the recently retired NFL Quarterback, Andrew Luck. Each month, Andrew selects a children’s book and an adult book (that isn’t always sports related) for fans to read. Readers can then listen to Andrew’s podcast to hear his thoughts on the book as well as interviews with the authors. Girls’ Night In focuses on books written by women and non-binary authors with book topics usually promoting mental health awareness and self-care for women. They have both in-person meetups as well as virtual ones. There are also several online groups and other communities for people to connect about books.

Wind Down with a Good Book

Now, if you’ll pass the almond milk, I’m going to settle in for a bedtime story. You’re never too old to have Michelle Obama tuck you in and based on how this year is going, she’s exactly who I need to hear right now.

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