Off the Shelf: Reading Colors Your World

Summer is hands down my favorite library season. Our staff team has been planning since last fall to provide opportunities for fun and learning. The performers are booked, the calendars and reading logs printed, and the supplies and prizes have arrived. Now we are waiting eagerly for the Summer Reading Program to begin.


In addition to encouraging children and families to track time reading and earn fun incentives for reaching goals, each area library has activities planned for all ages.


At our library, we are making use of our beautiful parks and offering lots of performers, story times, and creator programs outdoors at Crapo Park for babies, kids, and teens. You can come to the park for magicians, musicians, and more. You also can enjoy Family Story Time, Craft A Story, and Babygarten at the park.


Tweens and teens get to do fun projects like making stomp rockets and edible perler beads. They can stop by the park for some Hamilton trivia and paint chip art. Teens who want to get more involved are encouraged to join the TICOS club, help with flag routes for the Avenue of the Flags project, or join us for volunteer training and work on their silver cord hours over the summer.


While most of our programs this summer are in-person, we are continuing virtual programs and grab and go kits, too. Families have told us that they appreciate these options. With busy and varied schedules, not needing to be at a certain place at a certain time in order to participate is helpful for many families. We are continuing to offer this flexibility with our popular Little Learners and CoLab kits, as well as continuing some virtual storytimes.


Another way that we are reaching people in ways that fit their lifestyle and transportation and time constraints is to offer a summer bookmobile. We are partnering with the YMCA and the city’s day camp at Perkins Park to bring materials to those sites for checkout. You also will see the bookmobile at several of the events at Crapo Park.


Outreach, like the bookmobile, has library staff going where people are instead of only reaching people who come to the library building. It is something we do through out the year by visiting schools and taking STEM activities to groups such as the Staying Ahead sessions with Bridges Out of Poverty.


This summer library outreach will take us to the Farmers Market each Thursday where you can stop by our booth for information and activities. You can visit us at other special events, too. Come see the library at the Kid’s Day on the riverfront, Snake Alley Art Fair, and A Very Vintage Market.


Of course, we love to see families in the library where they can register for summer reading, pick up prizes, and check out books and more.


We recently expanded our Kid’s Create Collection and have several backpacks for kids to borrow for three weeks with a wide variety of topics and activities. There are music kits filled with instruments, early literacy kits for at home story times, and STEM kits with programmable robots, train sets, and microscopes. Stop by the youth desk for more information or search “kids create collection” in the catalog on our website. These backpacks are great opportunities for fun summer learning.


Public libraries offer these reading incentive programs and activities not just because it is fun and keeps kids from being bored, but also to extend learning through the summer. Not reading and learning during the summer months can have serious consequences. Summer learning loss is a concern for young students, especially those just beginning to develop their reading skills. With the challenges of the past year, encouraging kids to keep reading and learning is more important than ever.


Researchers have shown that children who don’t read over the summer can lose 2-3 months of reading skills. That effect accumulates. By the time a child reaches middle school without reading during the summers, they will have lost the equivalent of two years of learning. One study found that summer learning loss accounts for about two-thirds of the reading achievement gaps seen in ninth grade.


Studies show that third graders who can’t read at grade level are four times less likely to graduate from high school than their peers. Not having a high school diploma limits job opportunities and lifetime earnings. The damage of summer learning loss starts early and has long reaching effects on that person’s adult life.


These scary statistics are why public libraries beef up their calendars in the summer with fun opportunities for kids to make reading an enjoyable routine in their lives. The good news is that all it takes is 2-3 hours of reading per week to prevent summer learning loss. That works out to only 20 minutes a day of reading. Library summer reading programs give children an incentive to achieve reading goals each week and visit the library to find new reading material to keep them engaged throughout the summer.


What kids read over the summer isn’t nearly as important as building and keeping up the reading habit. Summer is a great time to let kids explore their own interests and reading preferences. This approach shows them that reading isn’t just for school assignments. Whether it is picture books, graphic novels, or nonfiction, giving kids freedom to choose puts them on a path to developing a lifelong enjoyment of reading.


This year’s summer reading theme, Reading Colors Your World, reminds us that books let us travel anywhere in the world, visit the past, and explore possible futures. The imagination of authors can take us anywhere.

See you at the library!