Beloved award-winning children’s author Kate DiCamillo has been named the 2016 National Summer Reading Champion by the Collaborative Summer Reading Program. We were privileged to have the opportunity to sit down with her and ask her a few questions about her experience with, and advice about, summer reading.
WeAreTeachers: How do you ignite a passion for reading in children?
Kate DiCamillo: Reading aloud to children is one way kids fall in love with books and stories. Another way, I think, is by conveying to kids that reading is a joy, a pleasure, a privilege.
WeAreTeachers: Do you think some people are just wired to be readers?
DiCamillo: I do. But at the same time, I think humans are story animals. I think it is how we make sense out of the world. We need story.
WeAreTeachers: Do you think extrinsic rewards help kids become readers?
DiCamillo: I think the story itself can be the reward. But I do think that for the reluctant reader, prizes can help. I was a kid who loved to read and who needed no encouragement, but I was still out of my mind with joy when the public library gave out prizes for summertime reading.
WeAreTeachers: What can teachers do to develop passionate readers?
DiCamillo: Read aloud to them. Read aloud to them. Read aloud to them. Also, encourage them to read even when they’re not in school. Encouraging them to sign up for the summer reading program at the local library is a great example of encouraging the joy of reading outside of the classroom.
WeAreTeachers: If parents are not readers themselves, how can we convince them of the importance of modeling for their children?
DiCamillo: One thing I think we can encourage is parents and children reading a story aloud together.
WeAreTeachers: You speak about libraries being magical places. What images do the word “library” conjure up for you?
DiCamillo: Safety, freedom, possibilities, magic.
WeAreTeachers: You describe books as a source for having great experiences and meeting heroes. Who are some of your favorite heroes from reading when you were a child?
DiCamillo: I had a biography of Abraham Lincoln that I read many, many times as a kid. And also one of George Washington Carver that I checked out of the library. Those two men were heroes to me. Also Beverly Cleary was a hero. Laura Ingalls Wilder. E.B. White. Stuart Little. Ralph S. Mouse. The list goes on and on.
WeAreTeachers: I still remember intricate details of the settings of some of my favorite childhood books. Do you have places that you experienced through reading that still linger in your mind?
DiCamillo: Absolutely. I can still see Paddington Station and the inside of the little house in the big woods, and the Borrowers’ house in the floorboards.
WeAreTeachers: Can you identify five books (or authors) without which no child’s education would be complete in your opinion?
DiCamillo: E.B. White, Beverly Cleary, Katherine Paterson, Christopher Paul Curtis, Kwame Alexander, Gene Yang … look, again, I could go on and on.
Check out Kate DiCamillo’s recommended summer reading list.
Share this top 10 list for signing up for your local library’s Summer Reading Program with your students.
Also, here’s a compelling study that shows how summer reading benefits kids, especially low-income students.
And here are some fun student-made videos from the 2016 Teen Video Challenge promoting summer reading.