“On Your Mark, Get Set…Read!” Kicks Off

By Ginger Young, Executive Director

This article was originally printed in the Durham Herald-Sun.

What do a kissing pig, a tricycle obstacle course, paracord survival bracelets, and a basketball handler spinning 11 basketballs at once have in common?

They are all part of Durham County Library’s 2016 Summer Reading Program!

This year’s theme is “On Your Mark, Get Set . . . Read!”. The Durham County Library kicked off its summer of reading on June 11 with a celebration at Northgate Mall.  Running until August 6, it is open to everyone – children, teens, and adults – and it is all free.

Participants can earn points toward prizes by reading, visiting any of seven branch libraries, and even writing book reviews. Throughout the summer, Durham County Library is offering a variety of activities, programs, and story times at each of its branches.  It will commemorate its midpoint with a rally on Saturday, July 16, at Durham Central Park. The celebration will include games, performers, food trucks, and an Athlete Dog Parade (everyone is invited to dress up their dog as a favorite athlete).

Karlene Phillips, Manager of Family Literacy and Community Services at Durham County Library, helped a student at Eastway Elementary select her books during Book Harvest's Books on Break event earlier this month.

Karlene Phillips, Manager of Family Literacy and Community Services at Durham County Library, helped a student at Eastway Elementary select her books during Book Harvest’s Books on Break event earlier this month.

And the fun is not limited to seven library locations. The Durham County Library’s bookmobile, Destination Literacy, will be busy this summer, covering more than 200 miles each week and visiting a variety of child care centers, preschools, public housing communities, and apartment complexes. Six days a week, Destination Literacy will be carrying the spirit of the Summer Reading Program into Durham’s numerous communities and sharing summer activities that celebrate the joy of reading.

All of these festivities are designed to combat a harsh reality that sets in as soon as the final bell rings on the last day of school.  “The summer slide is a real challenge for children and families,” says Durham County Library Director Tammy Baggett. “Too many children lose academic ground during the summer months.”

In Durham County, where not all children have access to summer camps, tutoring, or other enrichments that help them retain hard-earned skills, the Library’s offerings can go a long way toward keeping children who are at risk of losing skills from suffering academic losses. Reading books over the summer, especially high-interest books which children select themselves, has proven to be a high-impact, cost-effective way to combat summer learning loss.

Durham County Library is not alone in responding to the threat of summer learning loss with books.  The Durham-based nonprofit organization Book Harvest provided more than 32,000 books to students in 13 Durham elementary schools in the last month of the school year through its Books on Break program.  These are books that the students selected themselves to take home to read over the summer and to keep forever.

Durham County Library and Book Harvest formed a unified front in the battle against summer learning loss this year. Students in many of the schools participating in Books on Break heard a pitch from Durham County Library staff about the Summer Reading Program and received flyers to share with their families announcing the details of the program.  Not only did the students start the summer rich with books, but they can replenish and recharge throughout the long weeks of summer by accessing the many and varied resources of the library.

EastwayBOBDCLOne parent, upon seeing the free Book Harvest books and the library information that her child brought home from school, said that she appreciated these efforts because they showed “that you all care for my daughter, in order for her to better herself, read, and learn.” A first grader leaving Books on Break with a backpack bursting with books declared that she will read all her books this summer so that “I will be ready for college!”.

These moments underscore the power of partnerships to address the critical challenges our children face – and the responsibility we all have to work together to equip and inspire our children to read in the summer and to return to school in the fall ready to learn.

Learn more about Durham County Library’s Summer Reading Program at www.durhamcountylibrary.org/summerreading