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Library to focus on summer reading

VALLEY — The summer months are normally considered by elementary, middle and high school students to be a time of respite from hitting the books. For students who want to stay on top of their education, however, summer can be as vital as the school year.

According to Reading is Fundamental — or, RIF — a nation-wide organization dedicated to childhood literacy, all children are at risk of losing some of the learning obtained during the school year if they go without reading.

“Students who lose reading ability over the summer rarely catch up,” read a study by RIF. “Over time, this loss over the summer can add up to the equivalent of three years of reading loss by the end of fifth grade. If left unattended, the gap in reading achievement can widen to four years of reading loss by the end of 12th grade for those students who have not already dropped out of school.”

To combat this, the Chambers County Library has developed several programs to promote reading in younger readers. The ‘Ready, Set, Read!’ program challenges those in the young, middle and teen age groups to read 100, 50 and 25 books, respectively. The program incentivvizes reading with prizes and events set throughout the summer.

“There is the issue of staying on the level that the kids were on when school ended, but we want to instill a sense of fun with reading,” said Library Director Mary Hamilton. “You come in the summer and we aren’t concerned with AR or taking tests. It’s just an invitation to come and read what you enjoy.”

One of the incentives is the Library Book Bucks Store. The Bradshaw Library annex becomes a store filled with toys, stuffed animals and games that can be purchased with currency earned by reading. The exchange rate comes out to one Book Buck per book read. 

“The incentives are there to encourage kids who may not do a lot of reading on their own,” Hamilton said.

Similar programs have been proven to improve reading proficiency and retention in area students. Last summer, Chambers County initiated the First Card for First Grade program, incentivising classes of first graders to all sign up for a library card for in order to win a pizza party at 100 percent participation. 809 readers registered and a total of 40,609 books were read by them. The overall summer reading participation increased by 67 percent.

“We had a huge increase all across the board last year,” Hamilton said. “[Ready, Set, Read!] will certainly help with the ‘summer slide’ issue.”