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Washington County Free Library's Summer Reading Club is open to all ages

June 06, 2012|By SHADAE PAUL | Special to The Herald-Mail

Reading, discovery and dreaming big is what the Washington County Free Library system wishes for this summer by holding its annual Summer Reading Club. The Summer Reading Club is open to people of all ages, preschool to adult, with the goal of increasing literacy within the local community.

With this year's theme, "Dream Big: Read!," the Summer Reading Club hopes to provide a fun way for people, especially school-aged children, to continue reading throughout the summer months.

"Sometimes kids lose skills during the summer until they get back to school," said Jeff Ridgeway, 57, the head of children's services at the Washington County Free Library. "They have a literacy gap during the summer months. Because of this reading gap, children do not continue to use the skills they acquired in the previous school year."

Ridgeway said with the Summer Reading Club children can ready any book he or she wants.

"The important fact is that they continue to read," he said.

For the theme, Summer Reading Club Committee chaired by branch librarians worked with the Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP), a network of nationwide libraries that provide resources for summer reading programs.

They also partnered with the school system's literacy program to make the reading club materials more accessible to children in the school program.

This year, the Summer Reading Club began on Friday, June 1, and will end Friday, Aug. 31. To sign up, people can go to any of the Washington County branch libraries or the Bookmobile to register for free.

When registered, participants receive a bag with a kit that contains a game board with 50 stars to log their summer reading. A star is placed on the game board for every 15 minutes spent reading. The bag also includes a Chick-fil-A coupon, temporary tattoos and an instruction sheet.

As participants read, they mark their log in 15-minute increments with a star. When they achieve 20 stars, they get a prize, such as homemade rocket ships, glow-in-the-dark star constellation stickers, pens or pencils.

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At the end of the summer, each child who reached the goal of 50 stars will receive a free book and free passes to the Monday, Aug. 13, Hagerstown Suns baseball game.

"I hope it's positive for them," Ridgeway said. "We also keep track of who finishes and send a list to schools so they reward those who finish the club."

In addition to casual readers, the Summer Reading Club welcomes participation from members of each of the four library book clubs -- the Early Literacy Program from birth to age 3; the Children's Program age 4 to age 11; the Teen Program "Own the Night" age 12 to 18, and the Adult Program "Between the Covers" age 18 and older. Each will receive a game board and prizes as they read. As a special incentive for teen readers a Kindle Fire will be raffled for participants to win.

Ridgeway has spoken to parents who come in to the library saying they remember the reading club being around when they were younger. For them, it was valuable tool for exploration, and they are glad to see it thriving now, he said.

In addition, kids have come in saying it gave them an opportunity to read books about a topic to which they hadn't previously been exposed. From this first spark, kids discover all types of topics -- animals, space and history — then go out and interact with it.

"It's all about discovery," Ridgeway said.

Reading itself has evolved as seen in the types of media that are available for people to interact with literature. The Summer Reading Club encourages participants to use audio books, video books, download books from one of the branches, in addition to traditional print books. Because of this, people have the opportunity to be creative with how they do their summer reading.

And there a lot of great books out there from which to chose.

"Parents want children to do well and to keep reading and kids generally like to read for pleasure," Ridgeway said.

Reading throughout the year is important not only to the reader but the community overall. "It improves people's quality of life and fosters an increase in the literacy level in our community," Ridgeway said. "It's important to have a literary public to make sound decisions."

According to Ridgeway, the biggest challenge to reading is the abundance of options people have when planning how to spend their time.

"People are busier these days than they used to be. Between TV, Internet, sports and other activities there are more options out there, but we hope parents have children take advantage of the library option," he said. "We are trying to make it easy for them by having different media. We want to get kids connected to literature."

With literacy programs like the Summer Reading Club people can make reading a lifelong habit for exploration.

"We want people to stay connected to literature," Ridgeway said.

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