Celebration of space exploration converges with summer reading themes for kids

We teach kids to reach for the stars. We tell them that achieving their goals begins with doing well in school. Reading is so important to that goal, and this summer launches great opportunities to get kids both reading and learning about the stars.

The theme playing out in many community library youth reading programs this summer, which is “A Universe of Stories,” originates from the Collaborative Summer Library Program™ 2019 Children’s Program. A description of the initiative notes that “Traditionally, summer reading programs are designed to encourage elementary-aged children to keep reading during summer vacation.” The benefits, among others, include motivation to read, development of positive attitudes “about reading, books, and the library,” and maintenance of reading skills over vacation.

As STAR Net (Science-Technology Activities & Resources for Libraries) also notes that “This summer learning program will coincide with NASA’s 60 years of achievement and its celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing [July 20],” and a chance to “launch into” what they are calling the Summer of Space, including exploration of STAR Net’s STEM Activity Clearinghouse. While the resources and activities are geared toward library offerings, they include plenty that mom and dad can use.

To venture out into a “universe of stories” School Zone’s Start to Read! early reading program includes lots of great stories for new readers, but as a lunar tie-in, kids can stretch and grow their early reading skills with Raccoon on the Moon, by Bruce Witty, a Level 3 offering from the series. It’s available as a print book, an iOS eBook, and a Kindle eBook. Young readers will love the whimsical story about a pesky raccoon, who has been causing trouble but gets a big surprise one night. (Many of the Start to Read! books are loaded on the Little Scholar® learning tablet and also available on online learning destination Anywhere Teacher, making for easy summertime travel portability and anywhere, anytime access.)

For even more “out of this world” focus, in May, space.com posted “Best Kids’ Space Books,” suggesting that “A good book about space can feed a kid’s obsession or inspire a brand-new interest in exploring the wonders of the universe.” For 4- to 6-year-olds one book on the list is the recently published The Girl Who Named Pluto: The Story of Venetia Burney, by Alice B. McGinty, which tells the story of how an 11-year-old English schoolgirl came to name the newly discovered Pluto back in the 1930s.

The article suggests that 4- to 8-year-olds will enjoy A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman, which tackles, as the space.com description notes, the “gigantic, mind-bogglingly tremendous whoppers of numbers” that loom above and beyond us in the form of stars.

Part of becoming a strong reader and problem solver is the ability to follow directions, and “making things” related to the space theme fine-tunes that ability and also gives hands-on lessons to reinforce learning. Last year the Homemade for Elle blog posted “20 Space Activities Kids Will Love.” Compiled from fellow bloggers, a few include a star-stamping activity from Mrs. Plemon’s Kindergarten, a Pie-Plate Solar System from Pink Stripey Socks, and an Erupting Moondust Prewriting Activity from Learn Play Imagine.

The One World Literacy Foundation explains that “Reading is important because it helps to expand the mind and develops the imagination.” They also observe that reading improves concentration, discipline, memory, and vocabulary and also builds self-esteem. Plus, a 2018 PBS Kids for Parents article by Deborah Farmer Kris titled, “Why Reading Aloud to Kids Helps Them Thrive,” points out that “reading also strengthens children’s social, emotional, and character development.

The article cites the lead author of a study suggesting that reading to young children is linked with “decreased levels of aggression, hyperactivity, and attention difficult difficulties,” noting that the New York Times quoted the author as saying that “When parents read with their children more…they learn to use words to describe feelings that are otherwise difficult and this enables them to better control their behavior when they have challenging feelings like anger or sadness.”

In the heart-stopping, awe-inspiring moon landing half a century ago, when the world sat glued to TV screens, Neil Armstrong pronounced “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” A love of reading, cultivated from a “universe of stories,” is one giant leap for each and every child, rocketing them toward their dreams.

Let this summer be the perfect time to take off!