Libraries fight summer slide, host reading program

Young people celebrated the start of summer during the Summer Reading Program Kickoff Party, held at the Valley Ranch Library on Wednesday, May 31.

The library launched the start of its summer reading program with a carnival for students, which included games, treats, and a magic juggling show. All four branches of Irving public libraries will be participating in the program, designed to encourage kids of all ages to read throughout the summer.

Young people 12 and up are asked to read a book of their choosing for 20 minutes a day for 40 days. Every five days, they can earn a prize by showing a librarian their completed log.

Malani Heaton, management analyst for the Valley Ranch Library, explained the program helps students develop the habit of reading on a daily basis.

“That’s why the children’s program is built on having the children read 20 minutes a day,” Heaton said. “We really want to get them in the habit of reading every day, not just ‘OK, I’ve got to hurry up and finish my five books.’ It’s more about reading a little bit every day, so they can stay in that practice.”

In addition to the reading challenges, all branches of the library will feature free programs and activities for children and adults based on the theme “Build a Better World.” Children’s activities range from magic shows and science experiments, to LEGO challenges and live animal shows, all of which are designed to help kids learn more about the world around them.

Teen readers have their own theme for this year’s reading challenge: “Out of This World.”

“Their challenge is to read for five hours, and for every five hours they read they can then get a prize, but they can only do that once a week,” Heaton said. “We do have some teens who are voracious readers, and they’ll come in and they’ve read 25 hours that week, but they can only cash in five hours a week.”

Teens can also participate in a number of crafts, movie screenings and other space-themed events throughout the summer.

Studies have shown that students who do not read during the summer have a harder time keeping up when they resume classes in the fall. Marianne Follis, manager of the Valley Ranch Library, explained this ‘slide’ is why they encourage students to keep reading throughout the summer months.

“We think it’s so important for kids to read all summer long,” Follis said. “There’s something called the ‘summer slide,’ and if children don’t actively read during the summer, they can regress six months to a year in their reading level. We try to have as many fun things and incentives as we can to bring students into the library and get them excited about reading.”

Heaton has seen the effects of the ‘summer slide’ first hand.

“I used to be a teacher,” she said. “At the beginning of the school year, the first six weeks you spend trying to recover what they lost during the summer and get back to the same level they were when they left school. Studies have shown that kids who read during the summer, they don’t slide back as much.”

Adults can also participate by reading four books of their choosing, or by reading with or to their children. The idea behind summer reading programs is to excite people of all ages about reading and to encourage families to read together.

“Even if your child can’t read, you can read to them, and they can earn prizes that way,” Follis said. “It’s so important for early literacy for parents to read to their little ones, and also it’s important for parents to model that reading is important.”

Everyone interested in joining the Summer Reading Program can sign up at any branch of the Irving public libraries.

About the Author

Ariel Graham

Ariel Graham is a freelance reporter and blogger. She graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electronic Media & Communication in December of 2011. Prior to moving to Dallas, she worked for AM 790 KFYO in Lubbock, Texas, as a commercial voiceover actress, board operator, and producer for “Lubbock’s First News” & “The Chad Hasty Show.” She also wrote a weekly technology blog “The Geek Girl Report,” as well as various news stories and podcasts for the station. She is currently working on her new blog “Super Geek Girl Report,” and in her free time, she enjoys drawing, video editing, and playing video games.