BY AMANDA BEAM
> SOUTHERN INDIANA —
Georgetown Elementary School fourth-grader Audrey Boyd loves a good book.
“I just like to read because, sometimes, I think about what’s happening in a book and it just makes my imagination grow,” she said.
But during summer break, students may not have as many opportunities or as much encouragement to read as they do throughout the school year. Local libraries hope to provide both to kids as they get rolling on their annual summer reading programs.
All three area main library systems, the New Albany-Floyd County, Jeffersonville Township and Charlestown-Clark County public libraries, have chosen “Dream Big: Read” as their reading program theme this year. Through a variety of crafts, speakers and clubs, each library reinforces this idea in their own unique way.
For the past 30 years, the Charlestown-Clark County Public Library has offered summer reading clubs to the community. Consisting of five separate branches in Charlestown, Borden, Henryville, New Washington and Sellersburg, the system offers programs to residents of all ages.
“It’s the first time ever we’re doing summer reading club from babies all the way to adults,” children’s librarian April Beckman said. “The whole family can sign up for our summer reading club. All the prizes are slightly different depending on how old you are, but basically it’s just reading and earning prizes.”
Sixth-grade Borden resident Alex Heichelbech has enrolled in the program. He said the rewards have given him an incentive to pick up a book this summer.
“You get prizes when you read. You have to read a certain amount of minutes to get a prize. It will make me read, I’ll say that,” Heichelbech said.
Beckman said all the branches offer the free program. Registration is ongoing throughout the summer and participants have until July 31 to complete their reading. In addition, the libraries host other activities, such as story hour and art club, to keep kids active during the summer months.
“Summer reading club is important because it stops what I call the summer brain drain slide. Research and tests have shown that when kids take a big break during the summer they can lose up to two months of schooling,” Beckman said. “If you’re reading or using your brain to be creative, you stop that summer slide and you have a child that’s even more ready to start school in the fall.”
Similarly structured to Charlestown-Clark County, the Jeffersonville Township Public Library also offers kids and teenagers programs that will reward their reading. Between the Jeffersonville and Clarksville branches, more than 500 children have signed up so far this year. Registration continues up until the last weeks of July, the time when the program ends.
Lori Morgan, public service manager for the library, said participants who earn 10 points by reading different books receive a backpack filled with numerous coupons and gift certificates from sponsors including local restaurants, the Frazier History Museum and Squire Boone Caverns. After obtaining the backpack, children may earn entry forms for the chance to win larger prizes.
“Kids need to be reading over the summer in order to keep up with their reading skills for when they do start back to school,” Morgan said. “Just read something and have a good time with it. Read something that you’ve wanted to read or read something that you’ve read before that was your favorite book. The whole point is to have fun but to still read over the summer months to keep those skills up.”
Children also will have other opportunities to learn through different activities that the library will sponsor all summer long. Puppet shows, story times, game days and even a zombie prom for teens have been scheduled.
Literary character Junie B. Jones will perform live as her Stupid Smelly Bus Tour arrives at the Jeffersonville branch at 3 p.m. Monday. In cooperation with Carmichael’s Bookstore, Jeffersonville will be one of the only 15 cities hosting the red-headed wonder. Once again, all programs are free and open to the public.
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library also has begun its annual reading program. NA-FC library children’s manager Abby Johnson said registration continues over the summer. Participants who read the required amount may turn in their log for a variety of prizes.
“We’ve had a really great response from the kids. We normally have over 2,000 children that participate,” Johnson said. “It’s just so great to see so many kids excited about reading and coming to see us at the library. It’s a really wonderful thing.”
For the past four years, sixth-grade Highland Hills’ student Maggie Oliver has participated in the NA-FC library’s summer activities. She said she doesn’t necessarily read the books just to obtain the rewards.
“I don’t really go for the prizes. I just like to challenge myself. It just keeps your mind active and you don’t just sit around all day watching TV,” Oliver said.
To supplement the reading program, the library offers different craft activities, story times and other special opportunities and presentations. One such club, Guys Read, aims to motivate boys to read more. Participants will not only discuss preselected books, but will be able to video chat with the books’ authors as well. Girls, of course, are also welcome to attend.
“We offer these programs because we know there are a lot of kids that maybe don’t have a lot to do over the summer,” Johnson said. “We want to have something fun for them to do where they can come and get together with their friends and just have a good time.
Thankful for the support of businesses and organizations in the community, each representative from the different libraries offered appreciation to all those who have helped make the reading programs a success.
“We have awesome sponsors. We could not do the summer reading club without our local community,” Beckman said.
“We really have a great partnership with our local schools and local organization. It’s really helped us get the word out and helped the kids get excited about it,” Johnson said. “We really appreciate those partnerships. We all have the same goals here. We want the kids to keep reading. We want them to have fun this summer.
“Those partnerships go a long way toward making that happen.”