CRYSTAL LAKE – There are more than 5 million reasons Linda Price can think of for why summer reading programs work.
Price, spokeswoman for the Crystal Lake Public Library, said people who believe it is impossible to get young people interested in reading should look no further than the Crystal Lake library’s summer reading program. Last year the program attracted 4,500 participants who combined to read more than 5 million minutes. Price said this year’s program is off to a strong start to meet or exceed those goals.
“Reading is a critical life skill,” Price said. “You don’t even have to read books per se. People can read magazines, newspapers, textbooks, comic books, anything they want. We just want to get people reading.”
While people often assume reading programs are for children, Price said the library focuses on all ages and separates the program into youth, teen and adult demographics. There is even a friendly competition to see which group accounts for the highest percentage of minutes read, with prizes donated from more than 80 local businesses available.
In this year’s Paws to Read program, Price said the library has also introduced library champion yard signs for people to display in their front yards. For every log participants complete, which takes about 300 minutes of reading, they get a sticker to display on their sign.
Price said it has already encouraged one family new to the area who lives next to people with a champion yard sign to come to the library and get involved.
“Crystal Lake is a very family-oriented community. Many parents are committed to their children’s education and that’s great to see,” Price said. “But reading is a lifelong skill that never goes away. We want to engage the whole family whenever we can.”
Studies have shown students who read over the summer and engage in other educational activities achieve at a higher level when school begins again in the fall.
According to joint research from the Public Broadcast Service and Scholastic, children who do not read over the summer could lose up to two years of reading comprehension achievement by the time they reach middle school. Students have also been found to score lower on the same standardized test when they take it at the end of the summer compared to the beginning.
Alicia Parmele, head of youth services at Algonquin Area Public Library, said her library is also using the Illinois Library Association’s Paws to Read program and attempts to find ways to keep participants on track.
Algonquin’s summer program includes a Book Buddies element that pairs a child with a teen volunteer who meets at the library for a reading session. Parmele said it gives the child a chance to read out loud to the teen, which can also help increase a child’s reading ability and vocabulary.
“Generally we want to try to get kids to read four to five books and older teens to read 24 hours,” Parmele said. “Any reading they do will help them stay at the level they are at so they don’t have to start again. Any reading helps stop that summer slide.”
Many summer reading programs at Crystal Lake, Algonquin and libraries around the county are still open for registration for those interested.