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Valley Parents: Library Summer Reading Programs Play Big Role During School Break

  • Enfield, N.H., resident Elena Trempe, 13, helps Trinity Hill, 10, of Caanan, N.H., with her guitar for her puppet musician at the Enfield Public Library on Thursday, July 12, 2018 as part of their "Libraries Rock" 2018 Summer Reading program. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Children's performer Saragail Benjamin is joined by Luke Sullivan, 8, of Barnard, Vt., in howling as they act out the book "Where the Wild Things Are," at the Norman Williams Public Library, in Woodstock, Vt., on Wednesday, June 18, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Children's performer Saragail Benjamin, of Burlington, Vt., drums while singing in front of the Norman Williams Public Library, in Woodstock, Vt., on Wednesday, June 18, 2018, for the summer reading Libraries Rock program. Benjamin is traveling to libraries throughout the summer to do drumming circles with kids. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Hannah Allen, 7, of Woodstock, Vt., reads with Gracie, a therapy dog at the Norman Williams Public Library, in Woodstock, Vt., on Wednesday, June 18, 2018. Allen doesn't have a dog of her own, and reads with Gracie every week. She particularly enjoys how much Gracie licks her. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Julia Morrill, 5, of Enfield, N.H., reads through a book at the Enfield Public Library on Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Baylee Hill, of Canaan, N.H., puts on her body puppet musician she made at the Enfield Public Library on Thursday, July 12, 2018 as part of their "Libraries Rock" 2018 Summer Reading program. (Valley News - August Frank) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley Parents Correspondent
Friday, August 03, 2018

When educators talk about a “summer slide,” they’re not referring to the recreational equipment at playgrounds or water parks. They’re describing the tendency for students to lose some of their academic skills over the summer break, particularly when it comes to reading development.

That’s why summer reading programs offered by public libraries are so important. Studies show these programs can help slow the decline of reading achievement levels, especially in lower-income kids who may not have access to books or educational enrichment opportunities during their summer vacation. Not only are library programs free, but the best ones foster in children an enthusiasm for reading by choice (as opposed to assigned material).

“My experience is that, during the school year, children read what they are required to read and have very little time to read for fun,” said Nadine Hodgdon, director of the Hartford Library, by email. “During the summer they have more free time to explore books and subjects that interest them.”

With help from the Collaborative Summer Library Program, a nationwide nonprofit organization that develops materials, activities and themes for public libraries to use, Upper Valley librarians offered arts and crafts workshops, concerts, magic shows, dance parties, reading competitions and more. Many found creative ways to build upon this summer’s theme: “Libraries Rock!”

For instance, the Abbott Library in Sunapee hosted a musical craft night, as one interpretation of “rock,” while the Quechee Library held archaeology and fossil workshops, as another interpretation.

At the Hartland Public Library, kids made boats and tested them in the brook behind the library building.

“The title of the program was ‘Don’t Rock the Boat,’ ” explained children’s librarian Amy McMullen. “It was a gorgeous day and we had a great time playing in the water. And yes, we created boats that floated, for the most part.”

Kids from preschool up to age 12 took part in “Read for Beads” at the Enfield Public Library. They chose a necklace or a keychain with a “My Library Rocks!” dog tag on it, and then for every 20 minutes of reading, they earned one pony bead for their chain, assistant librarian Patti Hardenberg said.

“After 60 minutes of reading, they add a larger sparkly bead, too,” she said. “The more they read, the more beads they add to their chains.”

A number of libraries set up reading challenges and incentives to help get kids reading.

Children at the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock agreed to read for a certain number of minutes per day (for a six-year-old, it might be 15 minutes, or 30-40 minutes for a 10-year-old).

“Each day they read they give themselves a sticker in their reading log,” said Amanda Merk, the library’s executive director. “When they reach seven stickers, they come in to the library and choose a small prize and a free book.”

Young readers also posted sticky notes on a bulletin board with the titles of books they read, along with their reviews, assigning books a rating from one to five stars.

At Blake Memorial Library in East Corinth, programming included “The Summer of 1,000 Books Challenge,” in which the entire community — children and adults alike — endeavored to read 1,000 books together. After every five books, participants received a raffle ticket for prizes donated by local businesses and organizations.

After seeing a steady decline in summer reading participation, the Howe Library in Hanover decided to try something new.

“Weather plays a big role in program attendance — if it’s gorgeous and sunny, people are making the most of being outdoors,” said Denise Reitsma, youth services librarian at at the Howe. “So we’re taking the library to where the kids are.”

This year, library staff went to the town’s popular recreation area Storrs Pond some Friday afternoons with a pop-up library. Children were welcome to read under a tent, and/or take a book they could either keep or bring back to the library or tent when they are finished.

Library cards weren’t required for the program.

“We have fun stuff — comics, magazines and titles we know kids like,” Reitsma said.

Getting some children excited about reading while they’re on vacation can be an uphill task, so librarians recommend that parents help their kids find books on topics they’re already engaged with.

Here are some tips from Upper Valley librarians.

“Has something recently sparked your kid’s interest? Dinosaurs? Volcanoes? The Titanic? There’s a book about that, and a librarian can help you find it,” said Emily Heidenreich, director of the Blake Memorial Library. “For our littlest readers — babies and toddlers — choose books with bold colors and exciting art. Young children are naturals at making up pictures through stories; they can even ‘read’ the pictures and tell their own story long before they can read print.”

“Increase your child’s investment in what they’re reading by letting them pick it themselves,” said Mo Churchill-Calkins, youth librarian at the Richards Free Library in Newport. “Help your child read about things that truly interest them, rather than pushing them toward classics or books you remember from school. It might mean more work, but it’s worth it.”

“Is a book-based movie coming out? Get together with your kids and read the book before seeing the movie,” said McMullen, of the Hartland Library. “Talk about the differences afterward — it can get pretty hilarious, if your kids are anything like mine. Books and reading are all around us!”

Reading together with kids is another good way to get them into the habit, according to Laina Warsavage, director of the Orford Social Library.

“For older kids, listening to an audio book together in the car or while you make dinner, instead of being on a screen, is a nice way to share a story. If kids see their parents or caregivers reading — and not on their screens — it reinforces that it is a pleasurable habit,” she said.

Churchill-Calkins, of Richards Free Library, suggested that parents make a ritual out of going to the library to choose new books.

“I see some families make special outings out of these trips,” she said. “They’ll come to the library to pick books, and then stop at the park or the farmer’s market or go out for ice cream.”

Most important, the librarians said, is for kids to see parents and peers reading and enjoying books — in essence, to make reading part of family and social culture.

“Above all, parents should be enthusiastic readers themselves, coming to libraries and bookstores to spend time selecting books for their own reading hours,” said Kate Schaal, director of the Quechee/Wilder Libraries. “Let kids see that parents make time in their busy lives to read books, newspapers and magazines.”

Reading for enjoyment should be just that: enjoyable.

“The great thing about library books is that there is no pressure,” said Amber Coughlin, children’s librarian at the Lebanon libraries. “You didn’t buy anything and you aren’t reading for school, so if you don’t like something, there’s no reason to force yourself to finish it. Nobody is going to give you a quiz. You can just return it to the library and pick something else out if it doesn’t suit you. I encourage kids to pick out a whole bunch of books that look fun and just try them out. You never know which book will be your new all-time favorite!”