By Kitty Felde 

There’s still a few weeks of summer left, the perfect time to kick back with a cool drink and read – which may be the last thing the child in your life plans to do with their precious time away from the classroom. But months without reading can hurt that child in the fall. Research by the Northwest Evaluation Association shows that young readers lose about 20% of their school-year gains in reading over the summer.

You can stop the summer slide.

Your local public library is eager to help, not only with book suggestions, but also with bribes. 

Er, prizes, that is.

It’s nearly impossible to find a public library without a summer reading program. 

Here in Washington, prizes from the DC Public Library include books, gift cards for movies and restaurants, even tickets to Washington Nationals games. Libraries in Arlington, Fairfax and Montgomery Counties also offer Nats tickets and other treats.

Personally, I liked the bribe offered by the Massena Public Library near the Canadian border in New York: read just one hour and you get free ice cream. 

But do prizes work? A study in the Journal of Health Economics says yes. Researchers handed out small tokens to try to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables. After five weeks, nearly half of them were still eating healthier.

On the other hand, The Washington Post says that an analysis of such studies concludes that when the bribes end, so does our interest in continuing a particular behavior that might be good for us. 

But that still means a summer of reading! And perhaps an ice cream cone, too!

Happy summer reading!

Kitty Felde, a longtime public radio journalist, is author and producer of “The Fina Mendoza Mysteries,” books and podcasts about the fictional daughter of a congressman who pursues adventures inside the U.S. Capitol and teaches young readers about the U.S. Constitution.

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