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Too much tech time? This Baltimore literary expert offers some library book ideas for winter break

Baltimore City Public Schools are closed over the winter holiday break.
Kristen Mosbrucker
Baltimore City Public Schools are closed over the winter holiday break.

Inspiring students to continue reading books when there’s no homework due during a winter school break can be a challenging proposition for parents. The lure of smartphones, video games and even new toys to ring in the New Year can be strong.

But there are some strategies parents can use to inspire youth of all ages to open a book, even during a vacation.

The first tip is to encourage students to read books that might catch their attention and speak to their personal experience.

Kristina Cardona Collins, a professor and literacy division director for Loyola University Maryland’s Clinical Centers recommends that students should be encouraged to read books outside of the school curriculum which may focus more on classic novels rather than contemporary narratives.

“It allows the opportunity for children and young adults and middle schoolers, to read what they want to read,” Cardona Collins said. “The curriculum was pretty much set for them about what they said they're supposed to be reading.”

Reading proficiency among 4th and 8th grade students slipped nationwide between 2019 and 2022, according to data released by the National Center for Education Statistics in October. Many students lost educational gains during the coronavirus pandemic nearly three years ago when schools were shuttered and all learning went online.

“We don't lose the learning, it's just that we lose time and practice of the learning,” she said.

Kristina Collins has some recommendations to keep youth reading over winter break.
Courtesy image
Kristina Collins has some recommendations to keep youth reading over winter break.

Students reading outside of school helps to improve literacy skills and compares it to exercising in order to build muscles.

“It's not so much as practice makes perfect as practice makes you better,” she said.

Reading should be fun for youth and not feel like a punishment or chore. She advised that parents read with children and find creative ways to spark their child’s interest in reading such as having book discussions or starting a challenge to see who can read the most books over the break.

For younger children, she recommended books with photos or illustrations that focus on social-emotional learning since the pandemic has been especially hard for young children.

“We need those vocabulary words to talk about and process those feelings and emotions, and even how to interact with one another again, now that you know, we're out and about and we're with people again,” she said.

Parents of older children may want to explore so-called banned books.

“There's a reason why they're banned. Typically, it's to continue to marginalize voices and stories of people who are marginalized, and that's wrong,” she said.

Winter Break Book Recommendations:

Editors note: Most of these books are available at the local library, each link should connect to the Baltimore library system for the book title.

Youngest Students
The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson

That's Not My Name by Anoosha Syed

Namaste is a Greeting by Suma Subramaniam

Gibberish by Young Vo 

Middle School Students
A Rover Story by Jasmine Warga

Freestyle: A Graphic Novel by Gail Galligan 

Young Adults
Man Made Monsters by Andrea L Rogers 

Ain’t Burned all the Bright by Jason Reynolds

Zshekinah Collier is WYPR’s 2022-2023 Report for America Corps Member, where she covers Education. @Zshekinahgf
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