Every summer the library asks kids to do only one thing: Read 10 books and turn in a reading log. This summer 952 children did just that. And some of them logged more than 10 books. The final tally? The kids read a whopping 14,670 books.
Our summer reading program was themed “A Universe of Stories” in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission and the first moon landing. In June and July, we rocketed through 20 events designed to engage kids in learning. A few out-of-this-world highlights:
The nonprofit Friends of Main Library provided a blast-off donation of $5,000 to support our mission to provide a summer’s worth of free educational and enrichment events at the main library in Rocky Mount and our branch at Westlake. Those events attracted 2,125 attendees. In addition, 1,423 people dropped by our story hours. Other bright stars were the 15 businesses and nonprofit organizations that supported our summer readers with coupons and rewards.
Like a turbocharged starship, the Bookmobile zipped around the county, touching down at 12 Bookyard Parties, including ones at Smith Mountain Lake Community Park, Callaway, Coopers Cove, Henry and points in between. The Bookmobile crew served 600 hot dogs, dispensed 1,000 bottles of water, managed an inventory of 1,500 pencils and 500 crayons and printed 500 feet of book checkout receipts. “I couldn’t believe the Bookmobile came all the way here,” said a Coopers Cove mother. “It was nice to feel we matter.”
The Bookmobile brought others into its orbit. Healthy Franklin County of United Way of Roanoke Valley gave out free fresh produce at several Bookyard Parties. We docked with Movies on the Move, sponsored by Franklin County Parks and Recreation, and Movie Night at the Rocky Mount Farmers Market. Said Jessica Heckman, town planner with the Town of Rocky Mount, “The Bookmobile has added so much to our movie nights by providing kids and families with hands-on activities.”
Now let’s get grounded for a minute. What’s the fuss over summer reading? Because the benefits are powerful. According to Dominican University, research spanning 100 years shows that children experience learning losses when they don’t pursue educational activities during the summer. This is especially true with reading ability. In the U.S., public libraries began running summer reading programs in the 1890s. Today, 95% of them promote and facilitate summer reading. Our county library is one of many across the nation that forestall the “summer slide” in reading skills and help kids glide into the new school year. Mission accomplished.
Christine Arena is programming and outreach coordinator for the Franklin County Public Library.